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Beating the Chill: Planting Windbreak Trees for a Cozy Canterbury Winter

Canterbury winters are renowned for their crisp air and clear skies. But let’s be honest, the crispness can sometimes turn into a bone-chilling bite, especially when the wind whips through your property. Here’s where the magic of windbreak trees comes in. These strategic plantings offer a natural defense against the elements, creating a sheltered haven around your home and reducing your reliance on heating.

Planting windbreak trees in autumn, also known as fall, is the ideal time for Canterbury residents. This blog postwill delve into the practical benefits of planting windbreaks in fall and explore the perfect tree options for Canterbury’s unique climate.

Why Fall is the Perfect Time to Plant Windbreaks in Canterbury

Canterbury experiences mild autumns with comfortable temperatures and moist soil conditions. This creates the perfect environment for establishing new trees. Here’s a breakdown of the benefits of fall planting:

  • Root Development: Fall provides ample time for roots to develop before the harsh winter sets in. The cooler temperatures minimize stress on the new tree, allowing it to focus its energy on establishing a strong root system. This strong foundation sets the stage for healthy growth in the following spring and summer.
  • Moisture Availability: Autumn rains replenish soil moisture levels, providing a natural irrigation system for your newly planted trees. This reduces the need for frequent watering, especially important as winter approaches and rainfall patterns become less predictable.
  • Reduced Transplant Shock: During fall, trees are naturally entering a state of dormancy. This reduced physiological activity minimizes transplant shock, allowing the tree to focus its energy on establishing roots in its new home.
  • Reduced Pest and Disease Pressure: Many insects and fungal diseases become less active in fall. This minimizes the risk of your new tree being attacked by pests or diseases shortly after planting.

The Science Behind Windbreak Benefits

Windbreaks are not just aesthetic additions to your landscape; they offer a multitude of practical benefits. Here’s how they work:

  • Wind Reduction: Windbreaks act as a physical barrier, disrupting wind flow and reducing wind speed around your property. Studies by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have shown that windbreaks can reduce wind speeds by up to 50% for a distance of 20 times the height of the trees. This translates to a significant reduction in heat loss from your home, leading to lower energy bills.
  • Improved Microclimate: Windbreaks not only reduce wind speed but also create a more sheltered microclimate around your home. This sheltered area experiences less windchill, leading to a perceived increase in temperature. Additionally, windbreaks can help trap winter sun and minimize frost penetration, protecting your landscaping and potentially extending the growing season for some plants.
  • Soil Conservation: Strong winds can cause significant soil erosion, especially in Canterbury’s exposed areas. Windbreaks help to reduce wind velocity at ground level, minimizing soil erosion and protecting your valuable topsoil.
  • Increased Biodiversity: Windbreaks provide a habitat for a variety of birds, insects, and other wildlife. They can also offer a haven for beneficial insects like ladybugs, which help control garden pests naturally.

Choosing the Right Windbreak Trees for Canterbury

Canterbury boasts a diverse range of microclimates, so it’s important to choose windbreak trees that thrive in your specific location. Here are some excellent options to consider, categorized by their growth rate:

  • Fast-Growing Windbreak Trees:
    • Poplar (Populus spp.): These fast-growing trees are excellent windbreakers, reaching heights of up to 20 meters (65 feet) within a few years. However, poplars are relatively short-lived and require regular pruning to maintain their shape and control their spread.
    • Alder (Alnus spp.): Alders are nitrogen-fixing trees, meaning they enrich the soil as they grow. They are fast-growing and can reach heights of 15-20 meters (50-65 feet) at maturity. Alders prefer moist soils and tolerate some degree of wind exposure.
    • Willow (Salix spp.): Certain willow varieties, like Crack Willow (Salix fragilis) and Cricket Bat Willow (Salix alba var. caerea), are fast-growing and effective windbreakers. However, willows can be invasive in some areas, so check with your local council before planting.


  • Medium-Growth Windbreak Trees:
    • Macrocarpa (Cupressus macrocarpa): (continued) 98 feet) and can be susceptible to wind damage in later years. It’s important to consider the mature size of a macrocarpa when planting and ensure it has sufficient space to grow without causing problems with overhead power lines or buildings.
    • Beech (Fagus spp.): New Zealand native beech trees like Southland Beech (Fagus fusca) and Mountain Beech (Fagus truncata) are excellent medium-growth windbreaks. They are slow to establish but can reach heights of 20-25 meters (65-80 feet) at maturity. Beeches prefer well-drained soils and some shelter from strong winds while young.
    • Totara (Podocarpus totara): Another New Zealand native, totara is a slow-growing but long-lived evergreen conifer. It is a good choice for windbreaks in coastal areas due to its tolerance of salt spray. Totara can reach heights of 20-30 meters (65-98 feet) at maturity and prefers moist, well-drained soils.


  • Slow-Growing Windbreak Trees:
    • Lombardy Poplar (Populus nigra ‘Italica’): While technically a fast-growing poplar variety, Lombardy Poplar is included in the slow-growing category due to its narrow, columnar form. This characteristic makes it less effective as a windbreak compared to other poplars. However, it can be a good choice for situations where space is limited. Lombardy Poplar can reach heights of 20-30 meters (65-98 feet) at maturity.
    • Karaka (Corynocarpus laevigatus): This slow-growing New Zealand native tree is a beautiful evergreen with glossy green leaves and orange fruit. It is a good choice for those seeking a windbreak with aesthetic appeal. Karaka can reach heights of 15-20 meters (50-65 feet) at maturity and prefers well-drained soils in sheltered positions.
    • Oak (Quercus spp.): Oaks are majestic trees that provide excellent wind protection in the long term. However, they are slow-growing and may take many years to reach a mature size. Oaks are suitable for larger properties and prefer well-drained soils with some sun exposure.

Planting and Caring for Your Windbreak Trees

Once you’ve chosen the right trees for your needs, it’s important to plant them correctly and provide them with proper care to ensure their success. Here are some key steps to follow:

  • Site Selection: Choose a location that receives full sun and has well-drained soil. Consider the mature size of the trees and ensure there are no underground utilities or overhead wires in their planting path.
  • Spacing: Plant your windbreak trees at the appropriate spacing for the chosen species. Generally, windbreak trees should be spaced 2-4 times their mature width apart. This allows for adequate airflow within the windbreak and reduces competition for light and resources.
  • Planting: Dig a hole that is twice the diameter of the tree’s root ball and slightly deeper. Carefully remove the tree from its container and loosen any circling roots. Place the tree in the hole and ensure the root flare is level with the surrounding soil. Backfill the hole with the excavated soil and water deeply.
  • Watering: Newly planted trees require regular watering, especially during dry periods. Water deeply and infrequently, allowing the soil to dry slightly between waterings. Once established, your trees will require less frequent watering.
  • Mulching: Apply a layer of mulch around the base of your trees to help retain moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature.
  • Pruning: Regular pruning can help to maintain the shape and health of your windbreak trees. Consult with a certified arborist for proper pruning techniques specific to the tree species you have chosen.

ProArb Canterbury®: Your Partner in Creating a Cozy Canterbury Winter

Planting windbreak trees is an investment in your property’s comfort and energy efficiency. By choosing the right trees and providing them with proper care, you can create a natural haven that will protect your home from the harsh Canterbury winter for years to come.

The expert arborists at ProArb Canterbury® are here to help you every step of the way. We can assist you with selecting the perfect windbreak trees for your specific needs, planting them correctly, and providing ongoing care advice.

Contact us today for a free consultation and let us help you create a cozy and energy-efficient winter haven for your Canterbury property.


Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about planting windbreak trees in Canterbury:

  1. When is the best time to plant windbreak trees in Canterbury?

Fall (autumn) is the ideal time to plant windbreak trees in Canterbury. The cooler temperatures and increased rainfall provide optimal conditions for root development before the winter arrives.

  1. How much wind reduction can I expect from a windbreak?

Studies by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) show that windbreaks can reduce wind speeds by up to 50% for a distance of 20 times the height of the trees [1].

  1. What are some additional benefits of planting windbreaks?

Besides wind reduction, windbreaks offer several benefits, including:

  • Improved microclimate with a perceived increase in temperature and reduced windchill.
  • Reduced soil erosion, especially in exposed areas.
  • Increased biodiversity by creating a habitat for beneficial insects and wildlife.
  1. What are some fast-growing windbreak tree options for Canterbury?

Popular fast-growing choices include Poplar (Populus spp.), Alder (Alnus spp.), and some Willow (Salix spp.) varieties. However, be aware of potential drawbacks like invasiveness or short lifespan.

  1. Are there any medium-growth windbreak trees suitable for Canterbury?

Yes! Macrocarpa (Cupressus macrocarpa), New Zealand beech trees (Fagus spp.), and Totara (Podocarpus totara) are all good medium-growth options with varying soil preferences and wind tolerance.

  1. What slow-growing windbreak trees can I plant in Canterbury?

While slower to mature, Lombardy Poplar (Populus nigra ‘Italica’), Karaka (Corynocarpus laevigatus), and Oak (Quercus spp.) offer long-term wind protection and aesthetic appeal.

  1. How far apart should I plant my windbreak trees?

Spacing depends on the chosen species. Generally, windbreak trees need 2-4 times their mature width apart for airflow and resource competition.

  1. Do I need professional help planting windbreak trees?

While not always necessary, consulting a certified arborist can be beneficial. They can advise on tree selection, proper planting techniques, and ongoing care specific to your situation.

  1. How can I care for my newly planted windbreak trees?

Regular watering, mulching, and proper pruning are crucial for successful establishment. ProArb Canterbury® arborists can provide detailed care advice.

  1. Where can I find more information about windbreak trees?

Many resources exist online and from local government agencies. ProArb Canterbury® can also offer guidance and connect you with helpful resources.

  1. Is there any government assistance available for planting windbreaks?

Some regional councils in New Zealand offer subsidies or grants for planting shelterbelts and windbreaks. Check with your local council for details.

  1. How can ProArb Canterbury® help me with my windbreak needs?

Our arborists can offer a range of services, including:

  • Selecting the perfect windbreak trees for your property.
  • Providing expert planting advice and assistance.
  • Offering ongoing care recommendations for your windbreak.
  1. Do you offer consultations for windbreak planning?

Yes, ProArb Canterbury® offers free consultations to discuss your windbreak needs and recommend the best course of action.

  1. How can I contact ProArb Canterbury®?

You can reach us through our website. We look forward to helping you create a cozy and energy-efficient winter haven with windbreak trees.


photo courtesy: thespruce.com/alder-trees-and-shrubs-3269701