The Norway Spruce is our favorite and best large evergreen for windbreaks in the eastern 2/3 of America, and in much of the world in the proper climate. We love this tree!!
The Norway Spruce is a fast growing (2-3’ per year) evergreen that has dark green needles that are 1 inch long, and can grow up to 5 ft a year in a good weather year. It never drops its needles but keeps them on for up to 10 years. Its branches extend to the ground, giving excellent wind protection. It is a native of Europe where it grows throughout the region and is the most common evergreen in the Alps area in Europe, the Black Forest of Germany, and the Carpathian mountains of Romania, Serbia and Ukraine. In Europe it is commonly called the Mountain Spruce and can be seen growing everywhere.
It will grow to 100+ ft tall and 25+ ft wide, it is very wind firm due to its large spreading root system, and tough flexible wood. It can live a very long life in windbreaks of over 100 years in most soils, and is the most common old windbreak tree in the midwest. Due to its shape, heavy snow and ice storms cause little damage. Deer will not normally eat this species unless there is nothing else available.
It will grow well in hardiness zones from 2-7 with some sites in the southern areas being too warm for this spruce as they enjoy colder climates better. I have seen them growing in a variety of soils, even rocky, and sandy soils that hold moisture, and does well in clay soils where pine and fir would not do well. They will grow in a soil PH of up to 9 but does prefer a 7.5 and lower for best growth rates. It is able to take more moisture than other species and should be considered where soils can stay moist and where the land is level and does not drain as well. Does not do well where the soil is constantly wet or swampy.
In areas where the summer can be hot and dry (Nebraska, Montana, Wyoming) they will not do well unless they have adequate moisture, for best growth rates they should have 25” of rain per year or more. They Norway Spruce have few disease problems unless stressed. Fungal diseases that effect other spruces do not effect it, and insect pests occur rarely except on older or stressed trees.
A 2’ tall potted tree can be over 10 ft tall in 5 years, in good soil, with adequate moisture and weed and grass control around the base. Spacing- single row 16’ apart, double row 20’ apart between rows and trees in the row. multiple rows 26 ‘or more apart with the trees staggered from the other row.
Norway Spruce rarely need to be trimmed but it can be done to help even out the growth. I think the best time is right before the new growth starts in the springtime and this is anytime after March 1st until the new growth starts to grow out. I recommend taking off only one inch of the growth from last year, as this puts the least stress on the tree and will accomplish what you want to do. If you have a double leader pick out the strongest one and cut the other one back 1/2 of the previously years growth. Sometime birds land on the top leader and break if off, and many new leaders will try to form. Again pick out the best one and trim the others back by 1/2 and it will be fine. Even on bigger trees try to allow only one leader, for if you have two trunks form one can be broken off in a strong wind. Contact us if you have any questions on trimming the Norway Spruce or any evergreen.
Here in Iowa and in most of the eastern 2/3 of the US it is a superior windbreak tree and I highly recommend it.