Wind is one of the biggest challenges a balcony gardener can face. I’m often surprised at how strong and gusty it can be here on the prairies.
So let’s start with a note about safety so that you don’t kill anyone. Use common sense when you try to block the wind on your balcony. Don’t put up any structure that can be blown down or worse, blown off of your deck. Many apartment and condo complexes have rules about this in order to ensure no one gets hurt. So be smart and make sure anything you attempt is secure and approved.
Here’s a selection of wind breaks that I’ve tried or seen others use. Some wind breaks can also double as privacy screens.
Grass or plastic cloches not only keep young plants warm, but also block the wind. And my simple bamboo wind break, pictured below right, is easy to construct and is as temporary or permanent as you need. There are lots of different sizes of bamboo out there, so use the diameter that suits your containers.
Trussed twigs, like these colourful Cornus stolonifera, Red Osier Dogwood pictured below left, might be readily available in your area and are easy to assemble. Secure them to your balcony railing in small bunches and they will help slow down the flow of the wind. Cornus sericea “Flaviramea” is the yellow twig dogwood – a bright yellow alternative.
And while we’re looking a twigs, here’s another application. The screen pictured below right, is a bit more substantial. The base is a rectangular container that is on rollers – it is custom built for the deck it is used on. The slim birch logs have been set into cement, and river rocks have also been set into the cement base. The willow twigs have been laced through the birch to add to the pattern. This wind break is heavy, so can’t be blown down, but easy to move when the locks are released on the casters.
Claude Cormier’s Blue Stick Garden suggests an wind break idea that could be moved to the balcony. Position large heavy containers, add some colourful, painted strips of wood and plant a quick growing grass like ribbon grass in the container. You have a wind break.
At first thought, stretched fabric panels would seen like a simple, affordable solution to protecting your garden from the wind. Maybe at ground level if the wind in your area is occasional and gentle. Large panels are probably not the solution for any completely exposed balcony. Fabric for this type of application is typically treated to deal with sun and moisture and is also perforated to allow wind through. If you want to block the wind through the railing of your balcony. IKEA sells a windscreen that can be attached with tape loops through eyelets.
There are many different ways custom fabric panels can be secured. The images below show the application on a wooden deck. The pattern on the fabric is created by small punched holes and turnbuckles and eye-screws secure the fabric panel to the deck and the wood frame of the fabric panels.
The example below left, shows fabric panels, again perforated to create a pattern and let wind through, secured on metal poles welded to a metal welded frame. And while we are looking at wood and metal frames, how about stretching and stapling a wire grid between wooden poles and filling the gap up with stones. A unique idea, but maybe not that applicable to most balconies. But there might be a small scale application that could work for you.
And of course, plants used as a wind break, depending on your situation. I like the idea pictured below, simple single bamboo or a heavy, stretched nylon rope that fast growing, big leaved hops can scramble up.