November 15, 2016

Flowering Trees and Shrubs Add Seasonal Color on the Farm

Driving through the Iowa countryside it’s hard not to recognize the pleasing sights, sounds and aromas of the fall season. Brilliant bursts of fall foliage decorate the landscape, fallen leaves rustle in the autumn breeze and crisp, earthen scents fill the air.
            A similar aesthetic effect can be replicated in a windbreak design. Flowering trees and shrubs can provide a splash of seasonal color and release a pleasing floral fragrance on your livestock farm, all while reducing odor and protecting your site from prevailing winds and heavy snowfall.

            Flowering trees and shrubs are a valuable windbreak tool along roadways and near farm entrances. These plant species are visually appealing and allow landowners to personalize the landscape with attractive cultivars ranging from the common purple lilac to the brilliant red chokeberry.

            Depending on the function of the windbreak, the buffer may include several staggered rows of evergreens, shade trees and shrubs. Shrubs are generally planted on the outward facing row in order to achieve additional density and to create a striking appearance along the backdrop of other tree greenery.

            When considering row spacing, a general rule of thumb is to leave a minimum of three to six feet between plants and 10 feet between rows of shrubs that are less than 10 feet tall. For shrubs and flowering trees within the 10 to 25 feet range, space plants five to 10 feet apart within the row, and 12 feet between rows.

            Ready to spruce up your farm with a variety of ornamental trees and shrubs? Check out the following species from our plant gallery. The examples provided below produce stunning foliage and fruit during the fall season. 

Amur Maple – A hardy and adaptable, multi-stemmed flowering tree, the amur maple produces beautiful orange and scarlet autumn leaves.

Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry – The autumn brilliance serviceberry is a small, flowering tree known for its white flowers in the early spring, purple fruit and brilliant red-orange fall foliage.

Redoiser Dogwood – Known for its bright red bark and purple fall flora, the redoiser dogwood is an attractive shrub both during the fall and winter months.

Brilliant Red Chokeberry – While the brilliant red chokeberry produces white flowers in May, it also reveals fiery red foliage and berries in the fall.

By Haley Banwart, CSIF Assistant Field Specialist 

October 13, 2016

Fall Planting Success Story: Out with the Old, In with the New

For many years, trees have functioned as a valuable tool at Pat and Norman Pint’s livestock farm near Fairbank. From improved aesthetics, to mitigating odor, and snow control, the Pints recognized many benefits of the windbreak that had been established on their farm for almost 40 years.

The Pint family, Buchanan County, contacted the Coalition to Support Iowa's Farmers
to replace their existing windbreak. 

But like many tools, time started to take its toll on the Pint’s trees. Though the existing grove of evergreens provided a great windbreak to shelter and protect the farm, the trees had been planted too close together and the Pints had concerns about how much life was left in their trees. That’s when they turned to the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers to replace their existing shelterbelt.  

Working through the Coalition’s Green Farmstead Partner Program, the Pints were connected with landscaping experts from Matthias Landscaping, which was based close by in Waterloo. Together, they made a plan to replace their windbreak and determine which tree species would be the best fit for their farm.

The new trees were planted on September 18. Fall is a great time for tree planting
because it allows the roots to become established before the ground freezes. 

After recruiting a neighbor and other family members to tear out the existing windbreak, the Pints successfully installed 46 new trees on September 18.  A variety of species including Arborvitae, Dogwoods, Norway Spruce, Burning Bush and Snowfall Ninebark were purchased from Cannon’s Greenhouse near Westgate, and planted in place of the crowded, expiring trees.
All hands on deck to complete
 the tree planting project. 

The new planting will not only serve as a windbreak for the Pint’s home, but will provide an updated aesthetic appeal to their wean-to-finish hog farm in Buchanan County.

The Pint’s success story is just one example of the support and service the Coalition can provide through the Green Farmstead Partner Program.  If you’re an Iowa farmer interested in establishing or updating a windbreak on your livestock farm, contact us at 800-932-2436 or

We’ll provide you with a free and confidential consultation to help you get started, and connect you with one of our partnering landscapers or nursery professionals to provide you the assistance you need to complete your tree planting project. 

By Haley Banwart, CSIF Assistant Field Specialist 

September 23, 2016

Autumn: An Ideal Season for Tree Planting

  September 22 marked the first day of fall. Although the traditional growing season is over for Iowa’s crop farmers, the autumnal equinox ushers in the perfect conditions to complete your tree planting.

  Fall is a great time to plant shrubs and trees because it allows the roots to become established before the ground freezes. However, planting trees too late in to the fall can result in poor plant health. The ideal window of time to begin your tree planting is from September through November, or roughly six weeks before the first sign of a hard frost.

There are several reasons fall may be more favorable than a spring establishment. The key is getting a head start on root growth.

1. Cool Temperatures, Warm Weather, Moderate Moisture  
As the days grow shorter throughout the fall season, temperatures drop and the rate of photosynthesis decreases. Air temperatures are cooler, but the soil remains warm and encourages new root growth instead of top growth. In the absence of extreme heat, plant transpiration is also low, and moderate autumn rains support rapid root development.

2. Equipped to Beat the Summer Heat 
Compared to a spring establishment, trees planted in the fall develop stronger root systems that can better tolerate stress from heat and drought during the summer season. Fall may also offer a better window of opportunity for planting as spring weather often invites generous amounts of rainfall that can prevent you from digging at your site.

3. Dress Up the Farm with Fall Colors  
     In addition to mitigating odor and controlling snow, trees also add visual appeal. Planting your trees in the fall will give you a glimpse of the beautiful fall foliage your trees will produce year after year.

4. Species Selection 
Before deciding when to plant your trees, remember to consider your species selection. Generally, plants with shallower, fibrous roots will adapt better during the fall season than those with fewer, less extensive root systems. Examples of trees that are recommended for fall planting include maple, spruce, pine, linden and elm trees.

Planting trees on your farm this fall?  Contact the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers at 800-932-2436 or You can also connect with one of the landscapers or nursery professionals participating in the Green Farmstead Partner program.

By Haley Banwart, CSIF Assistant Field Specialist