How to Landscape With a Berm

A wheelbarrow and shovel next to a berm.
What You'll Need
Tape measure
Paper and pencil (for designing)
Fill dirt or gravel
Lawn roller (optional)
Shrubs, flowers, plants
Shovel or Bobcat

When you’re looking to spruce up landscaping, there are a wealth of options. One of these is to add a berm to your outdoor space. Not only does it create a pleasing aesthetic, but it's useful for certain situations in your yard and easy to create. Keep reading to learn what a berm is, how to put one into your yard, and why you might want to take this route to increase your curb appeal.

What Is a Berm?

Even if you’ve never heard the term “berm” in relation to landscaping, you’ve probably seen one and not even realized it. Berms are mounded hills of dirt that typically form a long ridge. They're an easy way to add dimension to an otherwise flat yard. One of the advantages of this feature is that you get to decide the shape and size to best fit the needs of your space.

Why Install a Berm?

A landscaped berm with lights.

There are a few reasons to install a berm. Since berms are raised, they can be used as a focal point in your landscaping or are also useful in adding a sense of privacy while still maintaining a natural look. A more technical reason to utilize a berm in your yard is to redirect drainage. Berms can also be used to create a barrier between planters or flower beds and people, ensuring no one accidentally tramples your plants. Because of their height, berms also have more soil depth, which is good for planting as well as blocking out sound and wind.

How to Add a Berm to Your Garden

Now that you know what a berm is and all of its benefits, learn here how to create one in your own outdoor space.

Plan the Shape

First, plan the shape of your berm. These look most natural when they follow the curve of your garden, blending seamlessly into the landscape. A good rule of thumb is to keep your berm about four to six times as long as it is wide.

Further Determine Dimensions

A drawn blueprint for a backyard.

Next, further determine the dimensions of your berm. The maximum gradient of this surface should be five times as wide as it is tall in order to minimize problems associated with erosion, water runoff, and general maintenance. Making your berm too steep could result in serious issues, and most are no taller than 24 inches high. Keep in mind that an asymmetric appearance creates a natural and positive aesthetic.

Consider Drainage

As you design your berm, consider the water inflow and drainage your garden requires. Berms can act as miniature dams, changing the influx of water to your garden. A flat-topped berm reduces water runoff and provides more water to plants. Improve drainage with your berm by avoiding compact soil at the base. The use of heavy equipment could be responsible for increasing how compacted soil is.

Break up Soil

Lightly break up soil by digging into the surface of the area along the path of your berm.

Build the Base

Use affordable materials such as fill dirt or gravel to build the base. A shovel or Bobcat works best to pile on the fill dirt, compacting it lightly every so often. Match the layout you decided upon, making it one foot smaller on all sides than originally planned. Then, rake the substance smooth to match the proportions you desire. If you opt to use gravel, cover it with at least one inch of compacted clay to prevent soil from washing through it.

Lightly Compact

Roll an empty lawn roller over your top layer of soil or simply tamp it down with your feet. Since the berm will settle more as water seeps through it, a light compaction is enough at this step.

Plant Your Berm

A landscaped berm.

Now comes the fun part—planting your berm! Establish a lawn over it or opt for shrubs, flowers, and small trees. Be sure to add mulch as your plants establish roots to prevent erosion. This is the time to get creative and add an extra element of design to your yard.

A berm has many positive aspects and can only enhance the look and overall design of your landscaping. Enjoy yours not only for its pleasing aesthetic, but also for its helpful qualities.