Growing vegetables in windy conditions is an obstacle faced by many around the world. This obstacle affects us all, with food supply relying in part on foods grown in the wind. It is imperative for gardeners in windy regions to understand the ins and outs of their field to turn this obstacle into an opportunity successfully.
Growing vegetables in windy conditions? Windbreaks are necessary to grow vegetables in windy conditions. Choosing suitable windbreaks and growing appropriate vegetable plants is mandatory for success in windy conditions.
There are numerous kinds of windbreaks and wind-resistant plants, all of which depend heavily on your unique environment. Some vegetables require more protection than others, while some windbreaks are even edible! As tricky as growing vegetables in the wind can be, understanding all the contributing factors behind the process is necessary to find success.
How Wind Affects Vegetable Plants
Wind holds the power to significantly affect growth and development within vegetable plants, most notably lighter vegetable plants that are not meant for windy conditions. Either way, winds play a major part in dictating the survival and success of vegetable plants.
Growth and Development
As seedlings, light gusts of wind can make a plant more wind-resistant and sturdy; on the other hand, heavier gusts can terminate a plant’s life, or at least maim normal growth. The wind is also capable of affecting the growth and destruction of vegetable produce- the part that is eaten.
Produce may develop as shorter, smaller, or wrinkled up as a result of overexposure to the wind. The produce may also be blown off of a stem or a stock.
Leafed vegetable plants may be decimated by wind gusts, with holes sprouting up as a result of continued battering against leaf tissue. These holes grow alongside the plant, ruining a crop and potentially killing it off entirely
Stem diameter, height, and biomass are also factors inhibited by the presence of wind during development.
This table shows the relationship between vegetable plants sheltered and un-sheltered from windy conditions.
|Sheltered to Wind (% Growth)||65||11||53|
|Exposed to Wind (% Growth)||39||4||38|
When not shredding plants to pieces, wind gusts heavily dry out plant tissues, getting in the way of proper growth and flourishment. This process is known as desiccation and can result in crispy, dead leaves devout of substantial moisture levels.
Even with moist soil and sufficient water levels, unrelenting wind can and will dry out vegetable plants. When combined with the sun, excess evaporation exists as a threat, causing reduced growth and water stress.
With the presence of wind, flowering vegetables are less likely to be fertilized by bees and other pollinators, another point against the success of growing in windy conditions.
Using herbicides is a practice observed with good intent but can entail some unfortunate realities for surrounding plants. The spread of herbicides via means of wind, known as herbicide drift, can curtail neighboring plants’ growth or distort plant development.
Pesticides commonly used for weeds or invasive vines can spread shockingly far in a matter of seconds due to the presence of wind. It is recommended that herbicides or dangerous pesticides not be sprayed or applied when wind gusts are at or above eight miles per hour.
Wind affects vegetable plants in a host of ways, many of which can be detrimental to plant health. Fortunately, there is an exceeding amount of solutions to combat these hazards.
Which Plants Do Well with Wind
Some plants deal with the strain of windy conditions better than others and have evolved over thousands of years to become the robust, resilient greens that they are today. These vegetable plants tend to be stockier or lower to the ground than others, although there are outstanding factors that add to their ability to withstand the wind.
- Bok choy
- Bush and Runner Beans
If stemmed, wind-resistant vegetables tend to have flexible stems; this trait allows them to bend in the wind without breaking. Of course, at some point, even the most rugged of vegetables will fall victim to a strong enough wind gust. For this reason, it is important to provide at least some shelter for your plant(s).
Another characteristic often presents in wind-resistant or wind-tolerant plants is small, narrow leaves. These little leaves are less likely to be hole-ridden and reduce the amount of strain on the stem.
Low Growing Crops
Low to the ground crops generally respond to windy conditions better than their stemmed, high-flying counterparts. Ground-hugging leaves often found in salads, like kale and lettuce, as well as sprawling squashes, are prime examples of these low-growing crops.
Opting for bush beans and bush tomatoes instead of their taller relatives, like pole beans and vined tomatoes, is a consistent solution for cultivating a diverse array of vegetables.
Different Types of Windbreaks
When gardening in windy conditions, windbreaks are compulsory factions in yielding a successful crop. With a selection almost as wide as the options of plants to grow, selecting the right windbreak for your specific needs is wholly necessary.
While no two gardens are the same, employing solid walls or fences- vertical barriers- is not the best solution. Wind can still access plants through a vertical obstruction and can end up flattening the material below it, flowing over and bursting down with increased velocity.
Vertical barriers may also hurt your produce during periods of low wind, allocating pests, and diseases an ideal setting to flourish due to the lack of movement.
In essence, avoid vertical barriers if able, and opt for more effective, protective windbreaks like shrubs or curved sheds.
The sector of porous windbreaks encompasses both man-made and natural elements that maintain the main purpose of obstructing winds dangerous to plant well-being.
Industrial windbreaks like fences clad with slats or sturdy plant nets offer more flexible protection from the gales than walls and minimize the risk of invasive pests and diseases from stagnation.
Hedges and shrubs spearhead the natural subdivision of windbreaks, offering environment-friendly means of reducing wind velocity. Some examples of widely-used natural windbreaks are:
- Nanking cherry shrubs
- Common lilac
Some of these shrub windbreaks, like lilac and Nanking cherry shrubs, offer optimal conditions for pollinators like birds and bees. Others, like hazelnut and elderberry, can have their produce harvested and utilized in the kitchen.
How to Grow Edible Windbreaks
Utilizing edible windbreaks is a well-rounded solution to combating windy conditions, although growing these natural barriers can be more difficult than it might sound. There are a few considerations and steps to follow in order to allow your windbreaks to flourish.
For starters, remember that, when young and not yet sturdy, your shrubs will likely need protection. Covering them with wind nets should get the job done until they are big enough to survive the conditions.
Keeping the hedge or shrub somewhat permeable is the way to maximize the wind-reduction over long periods of time and distance. 50% permeability is the number to strive towards
Your wind block should be one-fifth to one-fifteenth of the distance meant to be protected. For example, an eight-foot hedge provides protection for roughly eighty feet behind it.
Source: Robert Kourik
- Dig the planting hole: Aim for 2-3 feet apart per plant
- Plant the shrub: Loosen the roots and insert the shrub root head. Insert native soil into any gaps.
- Water the shrub: After planting, water, and monitor your plant. Be sure to keep it hydrated, especially in windy and cold climates.
- Apply mulch: Add two to three inches of mulch around the base of the shrub. This will ensure water retention.
- Apply wind net if necessary.
For an example of a great edible windbreak, check out this video.
Challenges When Growing in a Windy Garden
When starting a garden in a windy environment, problems will inevitably pop up; knowing how to deal with them and rectify them is an invaluable tool to maintain a thriving system.
As trendy and attractive as greenhouses are, they are not built for windy conditions. In fact, if misplaced in a windy environment, greenhouses can become hassles and prove ineffective at their purpose: protecting plants and regulating temperature.
Instead of a greenhouse, turn to hoop houses (link to amazon) or natural windbreaks. Before constructing a greenhouse, be sure to contact a local landscaper or plant expert in your area for a consultation.
With wind comes movement, and movement at the bed of a vegetable plant can be detrimental to development and survival.
Introducing barriers such as natural windbreaks can solve this solution as well.
Adapt and Overcome
There will undoubtedly be issues when growing vegetables in windy conditions, although equipping yourself with knowledge on how to respond to these issues already gives your plants a better chance of survival. Applying this knowledge will almost certainly lead to success in the growth and vitality of your veggies.