Shelterbelts have been a popular landscaping feature for many years, especially in agricultural and rural settings. They help combat soil erosion, conserve moisture, and promote better crop pollination. Traditionally, shelterbelts were expansive, encircling entire properties as well as around individual fields. However, changes in agricultural equipment, like 100-foot wide combines, and farming practices have challenged the conventional design of shelterbelts.

The design and considerations for shelterbelts in suburban and acreage settings differ significantly. Suburban shelterbelts require careful planning, species selection, and spacing to fit within smaller, more regulated spaces. Acreage shelterbelts, on the other hand, offer more versatility, allowing for traditional designs, diverse species, and a broader range of functions.

If you have questions about the different considerations between suburban and acreage shelterbelts check out what Drew has to say in this Gardening at USask Video:

Suburban Shelterbelts

Suburban shelterbelts are typically found in smaller acreage settings. In these areas, you might not have the space to create expansive shelterbelts as you would on larger rural properties. Suburban landowners are more likely to face constraints such as nearby neighbors, buildings, power lines, and municipal regulations. Therefore, planning and careful consideration are essential when designing shelterbelts in suburban settings.

  • Species Selection: Choose tree and shrub species with a growth habit that won’t interfere with neighbors, infrastructure, or power lines. Avoid species with aggressive root systems or excessive seed production. Select species that fit the available space.
  • Spacing:  Opt for a well-thought-out spacing pattern. Rather than planting in a straight line, consider using zigzags or offsets to create a more efficient shelterbelt. Vary the spacing to allow for different species and sizes of trees, especially for understory or mid-story trees.
  • Height and Maintenance:  Be mindful of tree heights, especially in proximity to power lines. Avoid planting tall-growing trees beneath power lines to prevent future complications. Consider the long-term maintenance requirements and potential issues like disease susceptibility.
  • Compliance: Ensure your shelterbelt adheres to local regulations, avoiding obstructions to public infrastructure. Some municipalities may have rules against specific tree species in suburban areas.
  • Aesthetic Appeal: Create a shelterbelt that not only serves a functional purpose but also adds beauty to your property. Consider species that offer seasonal interest, such as trees with vibrant fall foliage.
  • Inspiration: Gain inspiration from local arboretums and neighboring yards to make informed decisions about tree species and layout.

Acreage Shelterbelts

In contrast, acreage shelterbelts have more space to work with, allowing for larger and more traditional designs. These shelterbelts can be designed with less stringent constraints, and landowners often have more flexibility in terms of species selection and spacing.

  • Traditional Design: Acreage shelterbelts can follow a more traditional design, encircling the property and creating expansive windbreaks. Larger acreages can accommodate shelterbelts that utilize a wider variety of tree species.
  • Versatility: Landowners with extensive acreages can experiment with a wider range of tree and shrub species, creating diverse and ecologically rich shelterbelts.
  • Windbreaks: Acreage shelterbelts can be strategically placed to serve as windbreaks for livestock or to protect specific areas on the property from strong winds.
  • Wildlife Habitat: With more space, acreage shelterbelts can be designed to attract wildlife and enhance biodiversity. This is especially valuable for larger properties that encompass various natural habitats.
  • Recreational Spaces: Acreage owners can incorporate shelterbelts into their recreational spaces, providing shaded areas for picnics, walking trails, or birdwatching.

Whether you’re in a suburban or acreage setting, a well-planned shelterbelt can add significant value to your property, protect against wind, and create an inviting environment. Consider your space, local regulations, and goals when designing your shelterbelt for a beautiful and functional landscape. If you need further advice, our experts at are here to help.

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