Berms, or raised areas, can be used in the landscape to add visual interest to flat or dull areas of the yard.
Berms are simply mounded hills of soil that are constructed to serve a purpose in a landscaped area.
They can be used for aesthetics, excess rainwater drainage, separating differing areas of a garden, accentuating walkways and as foundations for privacy screens.
The height and width of a berm depend on the purpose and the size of the surrounding landscape.
In a typical residential lot, a berm with a height of 1-3 feet and a length of 10-20 feet should fit nicely. Berms should be constructed with gradually sloping sides that trail naturally into the surrounding yard.
Many gardeners will use berms as a way to separate their more formal garden areas from other parts of the landscape.
Berms are often used toward the outside perimeter of the landscape to separate the lawn from the surrounding woodland areas.
The raised areas also provide an elevated area to more easily view and appreciate ornamental plantings. Raised flower beds can be a great way to make those showy annuals really stand out.
Berms can also be used to break up larger expanses of turf. Even small changes in elevation can be pleasing to the eye.
Small elevated beds can be used to frame landscape features like walkways and driveways.
Using berms to flank walkways can help create a feeling that these passageways were ‘carved' into the landscape.
Keep walkway berms simple and don't overplant.
Berms can also serve a functional role. Installing berms in low-lying areas is a good way to prevent water from ponding.
Drainage problems that occur on flat lots can often be corrected by adding berms. They are also more attractive than French drains or surface drains. Berms are also cheaper to install.
Another advantage of berms is that they allow you to create your own soil. Planting on a berm full of topsoil can be a welcome pleasure to those of us used to fighting hard red clay.
Berms can be used in combination with screening plants to create a barrier between neighboring houses without the need for a fence.
Many neighborhoods, especially in more suburban areas, have codes that regulate the use of fences. Plant screens may be the only option for people in this situation.
A 3-foot tall berm planted with evergreen shrubs can make a great privacy barrier. Plant some thorny holly bushes to help keep those pesky neighbors on their side of the berm.
Construction materials for a berm depend on its size and purpose. Most berms are created by using a ‘filler' soil for the majority of the mound.
High-quality topsoil is then used for the top several inches. The topsoil will support the roots of your plants, and the filler soil will mainly act as a drainage material. Of course, berms planted with annual flowers will require less topsoil than those supporting shrubs and trees.
Clark MacAllister is the Dawson County extension agent. For more information, call (706)265-2442.