Create a Berm

A berm is generally designed to serve a purpose


Like the island bed, there are no hard and fast rules for creating a berm.  But some simple guidelines can help you create a beautiful berm.  If the purpose of your berm is to solve drainage problems, a landscape expert may be required to properly design the berm.

Berms and island beds can be quite similar, but there are two notable differences.  The island bed generally “floats” alone in the landscape, whereas a berms are sweeping hills that alter the landscape.  A berm alters and becomes a part of the landscape, often flowing up to or adjoining with other elements of the landscape such as structures or an adjoining hills or a stand of woods.  Tapering the berm to the natural ground level also makes it appear a part of the natural landscape, but it is becoming common to see berms walled up.  The other primary difference is that an island is generally created on the existing elevation of the property.  A berm significantly raises the elevation by building up hills or mounds with soil.

If you are considering creating a berm, keep in mind that a surprisingly large quantity of soil is required.  Cultivated soil may be cost prohibitive depending on the size and height of the berm you have envisioned.  Check with excavating companies in your area, for a reasonable charge you may be able to acquire fill from construction projects such as digging for a new homes’ basement or a swimming pool.  Add cultivated soil only on top and dig in to the planting areas where necessary.

Purpose of a Berm

There are many reasons to create a berm, some very functional, some strictly aesthetic.  A functional berm usually becomes aesthetic in its’ finishing.

  • Create interest in a flat landscape
  • Separate functional areas
  • Add a focal point
  • Create a privacy screen
  • Create a wind barrier
  • Create a noise barrier
  • Enhance a design
  • Create a soil depth where soil conditions are unfavorable
  • Elevate plants to a better viewing position
  • Improve or redirect drainage


Berm are perfect for accents such as birdbaths, statues, urns or trees.  Garden structures such as plant pillars, accents and accessories will also provide year round interest that is difficult to achieve with plants alone.  Be sure to see the pages about Using Accent Structures and Using Garden Accents for design help.

Create a berm that you will love!  Even a berm created for drainage problems could turn out to be essentially a raised perennial bed.  Functional, but in the end beautiful.

Sharon DwyerComment