By Cindy Baldwin
INMAN – Harry Neufeldt, Inman, knows the value of a good windbreak. That’s why he chose to plant trees when the aging windbreak on his homesite was no longer doing its job. Neufeldt is being recognized at the McPherson County Conservation District annual meeting Jan. 27 with a windbreak award.
The original three-row cedar windbreak on the north side of his home was planted by his father, Dave Neufeldt, nearly 100 years ago. Harry Neufeldt grew up on the farm and moved back to it in 1984. The current house was built by his father in the early 1950s on the site of the original home. The windbreak had done its job during that time, sheltering the house. But several years ago, signs of its age became apparent.
“The trees had grown to where the branches were high enough above the ground that they no longer did a good job of breaking the wind,” Neufeldt said.
So, 10 years ago Neufeldt decided to solve the problem. He developed plans for a new windbreak on the north edge of the existing one. The windbreak has nearly 100 trees planted in three rows, two rows of red cedar trees and one row of a hybrid evergreen. The trees were purchased from the Schroeder Nursery, Moundridge.
At the time, Neufeldt made one concession to his age. Instead of the bareroot plants often used in establishing a windbreak, he purchased all the trees in two-gallon pots.
“I planted the potted trees, because I was 80 and wanted to get some good out of them,” he said.
The new windbreak was planted in an area that had been grass, which he described as “tough digging.” Each row has 35 trees, and he is proud to say that the trees have not only survived but thrived. Most are nearly 20 feet tall and have filled in nicely. But, they didn’t do it on their own.
Neufeldt hand watered the trees with a ¾” garden hose whenever he thought they needed it. He quickly learned that watering went much faster with the ¾” hose than the ½” one he first used. A three-minute soak with the larger hose proved to be the right amount of water. Even though the windbreak is well established now, he continues to water the trees during dry spells. He left the existing grass between the tree rows and keeps it mowed, cutting down on competition for water. The tree rows are mulched
with oak leaves that blow into the windbreak from trees in the farmyard. An easy, no-cost way to keep down weeds.
While many windbreaks also have plantings of smaller trees or bushes, Neufeldt said he decided that because of the bushes already planted around the house, they were not necessary for the windbreak.
The biggest problem Neufeldt has had to fight in keeping the windbreak healthy is bagworms – a constant battle. When the trees were shorter, he sprayed them by hand and was able to keep the pests under control. Now the tops are out of his reach, and he is looking at other options.
In addition to the red cedars and hybrid evergreens, Neufeldt also planted five pin oaks at the end of the windbreak to add some ornamental color to his yard. He has additional oaks, maples, pears, a wild mulberry and an American Elm in his yard and is quick to say he enjoys his trees. He had also planted 25 pine trees, but pine tree wilt took a toll and only two are left.
While Neufeldt waters the windbreak trees individually with a hose, he has developed an irrigation system for the other trees in the yard. A circular dam is built around each tree with an opening on one side so water can flow into and fill the reservoir area. They are constructed so he can turn on a faucet on the side of his house and water flows through channels to each tree and bush, including a bed of knock-out roses, he waters. He also provides nutrients for the trees and bushes by spreading used coffee
grounds – which he gets from a McPherson coffee shop – around the base of the plants. Neufeldt says the coffee grounds make the leaves shine.
Neufeldt is now nearing 90, still tending his trees and enjoying the birds and wildlife that visit his yard – including some friendly foxes. The work has all been worth the benefits, he said.
“It’s good therapy to take care of the trees. It keeps me busy,” he said. “And, the windbreak really helps on the heating bill. No doubt about that.”
It’s often said that people plant trees for the benefit of the next generation. Neufeldt is proof that while that is true, the tree planter can also reap the benefits of well placed and maintained trees. And, in the tradition of his father and his examples, his son has just planted a 1/8-mile-long windbreak on his place.
The appreciation for a good windbreak continues.