Your landscape design is much like your interior design. You need several elements to make it work and look beautiful. Similar to the inside of your home, your landscaping needs a variety of shape, color, texture and height.

Earthworks is a term used to collectively describe mounded soil used in a variety of ways. Earthworks can be created for either practical or aesthetic purposes. And there are several different styles and shapes, depending on your property.

A golf course is a great example of all different types of earthworks used in conjunction. There are rolling fairways, bunkers along the edges, and berms on the greens and mounds in between. For residential purposes, we’ll focus on berms and mounds.

yard mound with trees

Berms and Mounds

Berms and mounds are very similar in nature. They are both elevated areas of your landscape.  Berms are often linear link a river bank. A mound is shaped like an island. Mounds tend to be a little bit lower and wider to facilitate taller plants on top.

A berm or a mound is an easy way to add interest and height to the landscape, especially in dull, flat lawn areas. They can also be practically used for privacy, blocking unsightly views, creating a foot traffic trail, helping with drainage, or simply creating a focal point in the lawn.

Creating a berm or mound in your landscape is fairly simple but may require some landscaping machinery, depending on how big your property is.

gentle sloped landscape mound

Step 1: Make a Plan

Before you decide to integrate earthworks into your landscape, it’s a good idea to talk to a landscape architect or civil engineer to create a detailed grading and drainage plan. Berms can be a very strategic move. Mounds or berms must completely integrated with your grading and drainage plan. Berms are particularly important when used to force water to flow away from the home. They are also valuable where a homesite may sit adjacent to a drainage canal, ditch, dry wash, creek or river. When adding a berm to an existing landscape, they must also be careful to not interfere with the existing drainage system.

landsacape mound

Step 2: Decide on a Shape and Size

Creating the right size of berm is important because if you make it too big, it will look out of place on your property. If it’s too small it looks a little awkward and insignificant. Generally, a berm should be about four to five times as long as it is high, gradually trailing or spreading out into the lawn. Larger berms can be created with varying sizes and with more than one peak. The depth is normally up to you; however, most berms are generally no higher than 18 to 24 inches.

Most berms have a crescent-looking shape, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Anything goes as long as it first into or flows with your surrounding landscape. Typically curving berms are usually much more natural looking. When you’re considering adding a berm. Layout the shape in your lawn with flour, chalk, or spray paint and see how it looks. If it looks too big, too small, or unnatural, you can adjust it before it’s permanent.

beautiful flower bed on mound

Step 3: Dig and Fill

Berms are often constructed using some type of fill, such as sand, plant debris, rubble or asphalt, and soil. If you plan to use your berm for plans, you’ll want to use soil amended with compost. If you’re creating a very large berm, you can use different types of recycled objects in place of fill as long as the material is capable of retaining stability without deteriorating. But keep most of the material as fill.

Start piling up the fill or to create a sloping mound in the shape you’ve laid out. As you work, be sure you’re shaping the mount to blend in naturally, not sticking out like a sore thumb. The transition between your existing landscape and the slope of the berm should be very gradual. If it looks like a speed bump or a cliff, you’ve got some work to go. As you go, tamp the berm firmly to prevent air pockets and collapse. Simply add more soil and keep tamping until it’s relatively solid.

Step 4: Add a Border, or Don’t.  

Some mounds can simply flow into the lawn itself without a clear boundary while others have distinct edging. A berm or mound can be edged with attractive stones, plants, or other border options. Adding a border is a good idea if your berm is filled with soil or bark that you don’t want running into the lawn.

flower bed mound with rock wall

Step 5: Plant Your Plants

Landscape Berms make a great place for show-stopping plants, privacy trees, or stunning garden beds. In any type of mound or berm, you must plan for a microclimate. that will affect your plants.

Plants at the top need to be more drought tolerant since water drains more quickly at the top of a mount. Likewise, keep moisture-loving plants at the bottom. Also consider the overall temperature and sun exposure of both sides of the berm. Plants should always emphasize the berm’s form with taller plants at the top and wider plants at the bottom. Always add mulch to your berm plantings to help reduce erosion, and add insulation.

The most common mistake is making mounds and berms too steep to support plants. Grade as gently as possible to make sure that your roots don’t dry out from running water.

landscape mound with hosta plants on top

Let’s get to work!

As you work with earthworks in your landscape, remember that almost nothing in nature is symmetrical. Creating mounds of irregular shape will always create a more natural look than trying to make everything perfect. Put the highest point of your mount one end or the other, rather than in the middle. Make the top a little flat, rather than a dirt cliff, create a shape that is soft and asymmetrical.

Using earthworks on your property is a great way to add depth texture, and height to an otherwise bland lawn and create a beautiful landscape design.

I hope you enjoyed this information and wish you the best on your yard project. Remember these ideas with a pin below!

Your landscaping needs a variety of shape, color, texture and height..  Learn how to build landscape mounds in your yard this year!
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