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Wind breaks need to be a mix of sizes, heights and textures. The more uniform the windbreak is, the less it works.
USDA did a study that found that a solid wind break only was effective for 3 times it's height, a variable wind break was good for 10 times it's height.(Don't ask me to produce the document, it was 30 years ago I read that.)
So, the best wind break for your area is a mix of native trees and shrubs that get along together, and you vary short and tall. In California pines and oaks, maybe a some Ceanothus and manzanitas. A cottonwood here and redwood there. You're basically trying to confuse the wind, not give it a clear path to your space. Force the wind to fight with itself instead of you.
Build a few solid structures here and there to control the wind in select spots. That sunny spot in winter or spring that would be a nice to spot to read. Remember though that a solid wall will divert it and make the wind stronger in another spot.
I was working on a job up by Templeton where the customer had put the house up on the top of a hill. All was fine until the spring winds came. Their patio was huge, maybe 70 by 100 ft. All the patio furniture was up against the sliding doors, off the ground, stuck to the glass as the wind went over the house and rolled back against the house. If you've not built the house yet or you are buying a house, pick a spot just off the top, not on the top of a hill.
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Edited on Dec 28, 2012. Authors:
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