Do you currently have an older shelterbelt or windbreak that has been on your land for generations? If you have questions about how to revive it, check out this Gardening at USask video where Drew talks about legacy shelterbelts:

Farmland is often inherited from grandparents or parents, and along with this comes older, legacy shelterbelts. These older shelterbelts and windbreaks require special planning in order to maintain and revitalize. In this article, we will explore the importance of legacy shelterbelts, the key considerations for their upkeep, and how to make these green spaces more adaptable to modern needs.

Assessing Your shelterbelt

  • Identify the species in your shelterbelt and what is their expected lifespan.
  • Are there currently gaps or thin areas? Are you expecting gaps to appear a few years down the road?
  • Consider whether some trees need renewal or replacement.
  • Some species can recover their height and size if they are cut back or pruned effectively.
  • Replacement trees do not always have to be the same species that were originally planted. Take some time to look into more effective options.

The Art of Customization

  • Shelterbelts can be customized to serve varying needs.
  • Experiment with small changes and expand as you see positive effects on your land.
  • For example, try strategically planting certain species that will deter wildlife from consuming crops.
  • Creating a balanced ecosystem within your shelterbelt can lead to balanced coexistence with nature.

New Genetics and Species

  • Explore newer genetics and species. 
  • Hybrid poplar varieties developed under the PFRA program with Agriculture Canada can last much longer than traditionally believed.
  • Consider species like the Okanese Poplar, which has advantages in terms of space and maintenance.
Image by Namacha from Pixabay

Self-Pruning and Adaptation

  • Understand that some trees naturally self-prune, meaning they don’t grow branches in specific areas.
  • Don’t expect older trees to fill in gaps; they are unlikely to grow branches in self-pruned areas.
  • Climate change affects the needs of shelterbelts. Choose adaptable species to withstand changing conditions.

Do Your Own Research

  • There are so many species, cultivars, and hybrids available. Take some time to look into what options are out there and which ones are available to you.
  • Start with a well-thought-out plan. What do you need your shelterbelt to do for you?
  • Take into consideration the different life spans of trees. How long do you want your shelterbelt to be effective for? What will future renewal projects look like?

Updating your shelterbelt can be a daunting task but it doesn’t have to happen all at once. You can take your time and customize it over years. Start by making a plan and gradually tackle it row by row, gap by gap. Reviving these green spaces secures a resilient and dynamic future for your land.

Want more information on planting a shelterbelt?

Check out our other blog post to find a how-to guide for shelterbelt planting. Shelterbelt Planting: The Best Guide for Amazing Windbreaks.

Or download our Shelterbelt Tree Selection Guide
Check out what trees are currently available at