There are a few rules to follow when installing a planting to control snow and wind. The living snow fence is most effective when it is perpendicular to the prevailing winter winds. In Nebraska, they usually come from the northwest. There should be plenty of room on the leeward side (back side) of the windbreak for drifts. The location of corners and roads also play roles. Trees should be planted no closer than 200 feet from corners or intersections to allow for traffic visibility and sight lines for vehicles.
The plant material is also important in windbreak design. The species will vary depending on the climate, soil type, windbreak objectives, and, most importantly, the space that is available for the mature plant.
When choosing plant material, remember the growing conditions and available space. Species diversity is key with windbreak design. Windbreaks that comprise one or two species are more susceptible to being wiped out by insects or diseases if an infestation occurs. Diverse windbreaks are still functional if an infestation occurs within one or two species.
Windbreaks, like most things, also have a useful lifespan. If your windbreak is mature, between 30-50 years old, it might be time to rejuvenate. Natural Resource Districts can be great resources. They offer low-cost seedling trees for planting farm or livestock windbreaks, wildlife habitat, living snow fences or other plantings. For more information about the NRD Conservation Tree Program, contact your local NRD office.