Lawn Berms and Swales

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by snap12.5, Feb 17, 2005.

  1. snap12.5

    snap12.5 LawnSite Senior Member
    from Ohio
    Posts: 288

    Does anyone have experience adding berms or swales into yards??? Are there any pics you guys can post??? Adding berms to a yard can add a lot of interest to a flat yard and I have some interest in learning about the placement and height of berms and swales in landscaping. Any replies greatly appreciated!
  2. kris

    kris LawnSite Bronze Member
    from nowhere
    Posts: 1,579

    You know, that's a great topic.

    Berms can add interest to a flat landscape,create a noise barrier,screen undesirable views,direct drainage etc.
    Sometimes because of the material involved they can be expensive to make.
    I don't like berms that look like a leftover pile of soil... you shouldn't scrimp on them.

    You can save some money on large ones by only having the top foot made up of good quality topsoil.
    When shaping a berm keep in mind the aesthetic, drainage, and maintenance needs.

    Shape the berm so it has a gradual slope ...not a big bump in the landscape.
    If you have to mow it I wouldn't have more than one foot vertical drop in elevation four feet of horizontal distance . 4:1 ... 5:1 would be better...Here we go using that formula thread again! ha.

    As to your question of size there is no right answer ... they just have to look like they belong in the surrounding area.

    Do keep in mind drainage because they usually effect the whole area around them...try not to change the existing drainage at all unless it will have a positive effect on the site.

    Could go on and on with this subject ..planting on berms etc etc i said..good topic..thanks!
  3. snap12.5

    snap12.5 LawnSite Senior Member
    from Ohio
    Posts: 288

    kris - thanks for the reply. i knew someone would find this topic interesting. around here ive only seen the best landscapers use berms effectively. i definately could use a few tips.

    i agree with you about not making the berms too steep since mower scalping could be a problem. and also not making them look like a pile of leftover dirt.

    it seems to me that in a backyard for example, berms should be typically placed towards the outside perimeter of the yard. would u agree? if placed in the center of a yard, berms can take away from having a usable "play area" for a homeowner's kids.

    do u have a lot of experience creating berms(2-4ft)? ive seen on tv some berming done with a lawn planted on them. i didnt really think that it was common to plant anything else on them besides grass. what kind of plant material should be planted on berms if not grass?

    any other ideas, pics or literature/website references greatly appreciated! Thanks
  4. kris

    kris LawnSite Bronze Member
    from nowhere
    Posts: 1,579

    Yes I've built a few berms in my day but, sorry, no pics. Once again the placement has to seem natural ... and practical. The problem with placing them right on the outside perimeter is that it may effect drainage...just alway keep that(drainage) in mind.
    If your planting trees on a berm plant them across in a way that compliments the berms shape ... if you just stick them on top it looks unnatural and ...well , funny.
    Berms also make great rock gardens.... Could use low growing plants and groundcovers. Also grasses look nice .... choose taller varieties for the back-side etc.
    I have lots of natural inspiration around here because it's where the prairies meets the mountains ... picture rolling land as you get closer and closer to the mountains.
  5. YardPro

    YardPro LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,563

    here everything is flat. so we build berms a lot.

    remember the higher the wider. nothing is more out of place than a "lump" in the middle of the yard.

    i have foung that the larger, shallower sided berms look the best.
  6. snap12.5

    snap12.5 LawnSite Senior Member
    from Ohio
    Posts: 288

    thanks for the replies. i think it is most important to make sure that a typical commercial mower can mow on the berm without scalping. if the berm is too steep or doent taper off into the yard at the right angle,then there will definately be areas that were cut too low and areas left tall after running the mower over them.
  7. Not uncommon in my area are tall, steep berms placed close to the road to reduce traffic noise. Most of them are on lake lots where the homes are sandwiched between a State Rte. with heavy truck traffic and Skaneateles Lake. These are expensive properties, lakefront on the northern end of the lake runs about $12K per foot, and the berms are some of the ugliest things you ever saw. I suppose if these berms reduce the noise the owners hear from their decks overlooking the lake it's something they live with. This spring I should go photo some of the more extreme examples and post them for y'all.

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