Gardening in the wind

April 03, 2012 12:36 pm

A reader recently asked if I could write about gardening in the wind and if there were anything, short of moving, that one could do to have a successful garden in this area.

Our unique, and beautiful, geography is also what makes it windy here and a real challenge when attempting to get plants established or place new starts outside.

From North Powder to Elgin, or La Grande to Cove, excessive wind does play a role when planning outdoor areas. But the obvious success and beauty of our landscape plantings shows that much can be accomplished and it is, in the end, worth the effort.

The most critical time for young plant survival is the spring. And as we know, that is also when we routinely receive, consistently, the most wind. It is so difficult to say definitively “this is what you should do” as the wind is unpredictable at best. While the most significant patterns of wind velocity usually come from the south, the west and northwest, anyone who has spent any time at all in this area knows the wind can blow, and blow hard, from any direction. And while wind damage does occur during the spring season, this is also not the time when we will be setting small vegetable starts outside. We do that later and usually after the seasonal wind has abated.

A good rule to remember is that your goal is not to block the wind, but lift it. Solid walls or fences will simply result in the wind slamming into it, raising slightly, and then rushing to the ground on the other side. That is why successful windbreaks begin with shorter plantings, then medium, and finally taller. Picture lifting the wind to go over whatever it is you have planted. If your goal is to simply have a small area protected somewhat from drying winds, a row of tightly packed shorter shrubs will usually provide you with a significant decrease in wind velocity at ground level. And that will probably be your goal, just enough to keep your little plants from drying out excessively or being broken off.

By the time our spring winds have subsided for the season, your plants will be well on their way to survival. Just remember that most of what we plant outside isn’t placed in the open until later, and that when it finally is outside, the wind velocity at ground level is your concern.

Sitting in the dirt or on the ground where your garden is going to be planted, on a windy day, and then holding your hands out to the sides, raising and lowering them, you’ll be surprised at how much wind velocity changes within the lower four feet. While the wind at five feet above ground may be annoyingly strong, at ground level, where you small plants are, it can be surprisingly less.

As a general rule we will not be planting vegetable starts outside in April in our area of Northeast Oregon, we will simply have too many very cold nights. Cold frames, garden cloches, and floating row covers are all ways to expand the growing season and provide enough protection to have a successful garden and, later, eat what you have grown.

As time progresses, more people are turning to gardening not just for horticultural therapy (which I highly recommend!) but also for providing the most nutritious and beautiful food one can have.

Until next time, please enjoy your garden planning!


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