Planting Trees for Privacy & Road Noise Reduction

DIY, Exterior

Think back—I hope you had a lovely memorial day weekend. But while you were lounging by a lake, Dustin was working a little harder…planting a bunch of trees! 🌲 13 to be exact. Ever since we moved in, we’ve wanted to install some privacy trees, and we finally did it at the beginning of the summer.

For some reason, we have a house that people tend to be lost at. Seriously…cars are constantly stopping in front of our house, turning around in our driveway, and even pulling up our driveway to ask for directions (as though I know where you’re going?).

It might be because our house is right about where the road goes from feeling like a city street to a country road, or Google maps might be messing with us, I don’t know. But we want to make our property a little less exposed so that people feel a little less inclined to come ask us for directions—or at least they may give us some privacy as they pull over and check their phone in front of our house.

As a bonus, the trees should also help with the bit of road noise we get—the road we live on is 50 mph, and it’s not too loud, especially from the back yard, but a quieter experience is always appreciated!

Anyway, since I’ve done a TON of research about these trees, I thought it was only right to share what I learned, the process of planting, and what they look like. (Don’t worry, I’ll share an update once they’ve had a chance to grow.)

Privacy Trees

If you’re looking for a bit of privacy from your neighbors or passersby on the street, trees can be a great way to achieve that goal while still looking beautiful and contributing to the curb appeal of your home.

Depending on your yard, you may not even have privacy concerns until the winter, when leaves drop and all of a sudden you feel a lot more exposed. So, obviously, evergreens are the best option to get consistent privacy in all seasons.

You can choose to install a few strategic evergreens that will grow larger and provide a lot of privacy (spruce, for instance), or plant a bunch of smaller trees in a row or hedge. It’s totally dependent on the look you’re going for, of course.

Keep in mind that trees do need sunlight to succeed, so if you’re looking for privacy in a shady spot, you might do better installing a fence or building some kind of privacy screen.

The other thing you may want to consider when planting trees for privacy is growth rate. Mature trees are pricey, so you may be able to save money if you buy smaller trees—but they’ll also take time to mature. Weigh size, budget, and growth rate to find the best option for your home.

Trees to Block Road Noise

When you’re looking for trees for noise reduction, your qualifications are going to be similar to privacy trees, in that you want something that will provide coverage all year round (evergreens). One additional stipulation, though, is that you want a tree that grows all the way to the ground.

You know how you see some evergreens that have a trunk section toward the ground before the greenery starts? We’re hoping to avoid that for optimal noise reduction.

For that reason, arborvitaes and junipers are good options for blocking road noise.

The other thing to consider when blocking noise with foliage is layers. Ideally, you won’t just have one row of trees. Instead, think in layers, potentially planting 2 rows of trees, or adding a row of shrubs or hedges as well. Those multiple sections of foliage will help block out even more noise.

We’re going to add a layer of shade-loving shrubs beside our new trees, but I still have to figure out exactly what we want to plant. And, frankly, I’m feeling a bit of decision fatigue after all the tree research I did.

We may also add some shrubs on the house side of our trees once they’ve grown a bit and we have a better sense of how much space they need. Additionally, our septic mound is probably actually another layer of noise reduction (as you can see here).

Planting trees for privacy and noise reduction can also look beautiful and contribute to the curb appeal of your home.

Planting a Row of Evergreens

Ready to plant your row of trees to get some privacy and block some noise? Here’s the process we used:

Pick Your Tree Variety

Be sure to read up on different varieties of trees and consider which trees are native to the area, and which will survive well in your local conditions.

Pro-tip: Your city or county may even do discounted tree sales to encourage diversification of the area landscape or to support native trees—often resulting in great prices for your trees! Check your city or county website.

We knew we couldn’t do junipers because we have a couple of crab apple trees on our property, and they actually can’t coexist. So we started researching arborvitaes, of which there are a ton of different varieties. Some grow in really skinny, some make for a good hedge, some are more of a bush, and some get taller. It’s all about the look—and practicality—you’re going for.

We had a large area to fill in, so we selected Techny Arborvitaes because they grow a bit wider, giving us the most bang for our bucks. We purchased from a local greenhouse, not a big box store, thinking the trees would be healthier that way. A local tree company we used to remove a tree later confirmed these suspicions.

Planting trees for privacy and noise reduction can also look beautiful and contribute to the curb appeal of your home.

Plan Tree Locations

Once you’ve selected your variety, plan on the distance apart that they’ll want to be when they’re fully grown. This is usually information you can find online or on the tag. The nursery you’re shopping from should also know.

Then, mark with spray paint where you want the trees to go. Be sure to watch the spray paint marks during the day to understand the sunlight in that spot. Be sure your trees will be in the amount of sun they like.

After this process, we decided to take out a larger tree that’s providing too much shade for our new arborvitaes. You can see it in these photos, but it’s gone now.

Call Dig Safe!

Never never never dig without getting clear on where the wires are in your yard! You could really get hurt. Research the proper procedure in your area to have your yard marked before you start digging. We were lucky that there weren’t any concerns with this stretch of our yard.

Dig Appropriate Sized Holes

We have a friend who let us borrow his skid steer, and we rented an auger attachment to dig the holes. It sort of kickstarted the digging, and then Dustin could come in and finish digging.

I read that the key with trees is that you don’t want to dig too deep. You want the root ball to rest comfortably on firm soil, so that it doesn’t settle too deep in the hole. Basically, you want the hole to be just as deep as the container your tree came in. It can be 2-3 times as wide, though.

(Ours didn’t end up this wide, but our soil is sort of loose and sandy, so I’m not too worried about the trees being able to push their roots through the soil.)

Planting trees for privacy and noise reduction can also look beautiful and contribute to the curb appeal of your home—here's how we did it.

Because of the shape of the auger, Dustin had to come back in and widen the holes with a shovel. He didn’t want to accidentally dig too deep.

Plant!

You probably invested a lot in this tree (trees aren’t cheap)—don’t drop the ball here and end up killing it.

The key to planting trees seems to be moisture. Get the root ball wet, wet the dirt in the hole, water the area again once the tree is in, and put mulch on top to retain moisture.

We amended slightly with a MiracleGro soil specific to trees, because it is supposed to support moisture control. You want the tree to adjust to the natural soil, but a little amendment can support that transition.

Planting trees for privacy and noise reduction can also look beautiful and contribute to the curb appeal of your home.

Ongoing Care

What I read was that I’d need to water deeply at least once a week for the first season or until the trees are adjusted to their new homes. But we had a heat wave and are now in a drought after planting, so we’ve been trying to get them watered more often than that.

We had a tree service come out to remove a few trees (including the one that is shading these little guys in some photos) and they said to water a lot this year while they’re getting established. After the first year, your privacy trees should do pretty well without ongoing care. We will fertilize with tree spikes, but hopefully that’s about it.

We also have pretty sandy soil so there is good drainage around them—keep that in mind when planning water for trees in your area.

Planting Trees for Privacy and Noise Reduction

Right now, we have a row of tiny trees, which are obviously not helping much with road noise or privacy. But, once they’ve adjusted and they start to grow, I can’t wait to see what happens! I will keep this post updated on how they’re doing and whether they’re reducing road noise and increasing privacy—stay tuned!

Have questions about using trees for privacy and noise reduction? Drop them in the comments and I’ll do my best to help!

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