Desperate to find suitable wind break plants

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by LRAT, Sep 2, 2017.

  1. LRAT

    LRAT New Member

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    Hi,

    I am new to this forum.
    We live 50 km North East of Melbourne, on top of ridge at 325m elevation with a fantastic view, however this comes at a price! It can be very windy for days on end! We also have heavy clay soil with an acidity of 4.5 pH, lots of soap stone as well.
    Hot summers, cool winters but never have any frost.
    850mm rainfall per year on average.
    Bush fire prone area: Our place was completely burned down during the Black Saturday bush fires. Eucalyptus trees and wattles in abundance but nothing else.
    Also lots of kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, deer and rabbits around.

    When I say very windy, I mean very windy. The wind can go for days on end and can max out at 140 kph!
    We have had the property for seven years now and have tried to grow all sorts of things but without any success. So far we have tried: 3 types of bamboo, Irish strawberry trees, pittosporum, pine trees. The pine trees seem to be doing ok but they grow slow. They are now about 1.8 meter tall. All the rest grows very slow. Two types of bamboo couldn't hold on their leaves and died (The leaves were stripped off by the wind).

    We are looking for plants with following properties:
    -Wind resistant!
    -Fire resistant
    -Very hardy
    -Fast growing
    -Can withstand periods of drought
    -Can grow in heavy clay and acidic soil
    -Provides shade
    -Grows to about 5 to 6 meters tall (Or taller)
    -Evergreen
    -A bonus would be if it produces fruit, nuts or seeds

    We have now bought tagasaste seed from Diggers Club but this seems only suitable for sandy soils.
    What would you guys recommend for our situation? We are open for any suggestion and we are willing to sacrifice the view.
    Many thanks in advance!
    Cheers,

    Luc
     

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    Last edited: Sep 2, 2017
  2. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    The best wind breaks I know of are conifers, specifically those of the juniper family, they do far better than pine trees.
    Sadly I haven't found any good wind break tree that isn't prone to fire except the Osage Orange, it can be trained as a living fence hedge. I don't know if you could get any seed or even started trees in the Melbourne area, it would most likely be considered an invasive species.
     
  3. LRAT

    LRAT New Member

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    Thanks Bryant!
    That is a very interesting tip. I'd never heard of it before. A quick search tells me that I can order the seeds from the States.
    I will do some further research into it.
    I like the fact that is has thorns. That will be a deterrent for the wombats, wallabies and kangaroos (I hope).
     
  4. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    you may have to start with a hardscape type fence of some
    kind. because of fires i would suggest something heavy and
    metal or stone. perhaps arranged in an artistic manner and
    in a way to help break up the windflows...

    around here there are poplar trees that are used to grow
    quickly. we call them golf course trees because that is
    usually where i've seen them first. they grow quickly and
    tall.

    very likely any poplar trees that are not native would be
    considered invasive though.
     
  5. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

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    Hi LRAT, See if you can find a copy of David Holmgren’s book 'Trees on the treeless plain'. There is some fabulous info on windbreaks in it. In a nutshell you need to think about windbreaks as a multi-row construct. The height you want is really dependant on the distance from the windbreak and the thing or things you are trying to protect and is it just wind you are protecting it from or is sound, fire, cold windwhat you ar ed protecting it from...
     
  6. Ango

    Ango New Member

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    Hey LRAT, I'm a bit further up the road at about 150k's north east of melbourne, at about 550metres above sea level.
    Similar clay soil, with similar winds (but not as crazy as you by the sounds of it!).
    I've had some success with blackwood (acacia melanoxylon). Though it is early days.
    The blackwood is apparently 'fire retardant'. It does cast a beautiful deep shade (unlike the eucalypts).
    But given the conditions on Black Saturday, not much will stop those sorts of fires. I wouldn't be planting any sort of eucalyptus or coniferous plants anywhere within cooee of your house - they'll burst into flame at the mere thought of a fire and then tell all their mates and start an even bigger party!!!
    It's super easy to propagate blackwood from seed (you just need to heat treat the seeds by pouring boiling water over them). You can collect the seeds off mature blackwood trees - they'll be hanging off in clusters of brown seed pods. You may still find some hanging around still.
    They will race to a respectable height in no time given the right conditions, but wallabies absolutely love them.
    If you have the capacity to fence off the entire plot then do this. The plastic tree guards are quickly outgrown and they'll be attacked.
    I find them to be a very attractive tree - a larger established one near my shed (about 4 metres high) has a heap of tiny little birds living in it.
    Oh, they also have a nice yellow or cream blossom.
    A great tree.

    I'm also giving wormwood a go. This is a shrub though.
    A dozen seedlings this summer with barely any water and they've reached just below a metre.
    They're a silver colour and good looking.

    I've also put in a heap of feijoa - also propagated from seed. Again, easy to do by pulping a feijoa fruit then planting the dried seeds into seed raising mix.
    They're likewise silvery in colour and with absolutely no hand watering the best have reached a foot hight in 4 months with barely a drop of rain.
    I have lost probably 10% though to thirst. In time they may even produce fruit.

    Hope you find some good solutions.
     
  7. TXprairiesuburbs

    TXprairiesuburbs New Member

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    Hi! American prairie gardener here. A few thoughts assuming that you have some room, not a narrow ribbon of space for planting.

    - consider building a shrub layer that will nurse the larger trees you have in mind and help you get started. A nearby university plants multiple long rows of shrubs in lines. You could do this to get the process moving and also support your longer term strategy.

    - thinking of your windbreak as a guild will keep you from having to find 1 perfect tree that meets all requirements. :) Distribute the work through your guild.

    - using thorny plants in your base layer will help protect saplings, as noted elsewhere.

    - try a variety of these shrubs, see what works

    - I have heavy alkaline clay and winters down to ~15°F but a few plants that are widely tolerant come to mind.

    Thorny, shrubby:

    Prickly pear cactus
    Goji or wolfberry bushes
    Rosa rugosa
    Something in the berberis/mahonia family that's locally adapted to your conditions
    Goumi

    Chilean Guava (Myrtus ugni) might work in your shrub layer too. Figs.

    For tall trees you will have better fire resistance with deep rooted deciduous trees that hold a lot of water in the wood. Black mulberry comes to mind.

    Live oak is an American oak species that shouldn't mind your clay. It would probably appreciate a shallow swale & organic mulch to retain rainwater while getting established. Will take decades for it grow large enough to make any difference as a windbreak. Another reason to think of this as a guild, a small ecosystem that works together & develops in phases over a long period.

    Good luck!
     
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