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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Sunday - July 17, 2011

From: Vassar, KS
Region: Midwest
Topic: Privacy Screening, Septic Systems, Trees
Title: Windbreak for Eastern Kansas
Answered by: Brigid & Larry Larson

QUESTION:

I need to plant a fast growing windbreak near my lateral lines for a septic tank. We obviously can't have anything that would interfere with the laterals but I desperately need a North wind break. We are on a hill in eastern Kansas.

ANSWER:

I hope you have space to work with upwind from your laterals!    First of all, let me reference a previous Mr Smarty Plants answer that has some great references for the “what, when, where, and why” of windbreaks. These cover the basic reasons for planting windbreaks, their design, and plant selection.

 I also found some similar information directly from the Kansas Forest Service.  This publication covers windbreak evergreens and this one is a larger scale publication that covers a lot of design and also recommends trees. 

Mr Smarty Plants also has a set of recommended plants for Kansas.  This can be sorted, so you can choose trees of a good size and/or tall shrubs and get a list of plants to consider.  I’d be looking for plants that the Wildflower Center recommends which are also on the Kansas Forest Service list.   Reasonable choices that do appear on both lists include Populus deltoides (Eastern cottonwood), Fraxinus pennsylvanica (Green ash) and Prunus virginiana (Chokecherry).  Pay attention to the range and characteristics of the species; that will help you make choices that will do well on your property.

Now, you also noted that these will be close to your septic system.  If you have enough space to plant them a reasonable distance away, then you will be just fine.  I found discussions of root systems on  Wikipedia and in a publication from Colorado State.  They give that roots can extend 3-4 times the width of the drip line of a tree and can be near 7 feet in depth.  That sounds uncomfortably close to where a lateral may be to me.  Consider this in your design of your windbreak and have larger trees farther out and small trees or shrubs closer in and hopefully your design will be OK!

 

From the Image Gallery


Eastern cottonwood
Populus deltoides

Green ash
Fraxinus pennsylvanica

Chokecherry
Prunus virginiana

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