How to Make an Earth Berm

An earth berm is a landscaping feature that creates a barrier, adds interest to a flat landscape, improves drainage and can separate areas of land. A mounding process that adds earth to a flat or low-lying area until it is built up is all that is needed to create a berm. The work can be done with simple tools and physical labor or the aid of machinery, if desired.

Building an earth berm can create slopes and raised ground in flat landscaping.
  1. Measure the area where you want to add a berm feature. Check the depth of the space if it is a low-lying area, and measure the length, width and height you want to achieve with the berm depending on the purpose. To improve drainage and raise the ground, a gentle slope will be sufficient. For a sound or land barrier, you may want a higher mound. Draw a rough sketch of the area, and use the measurements to calculate the yardage of earth you will need to fill the space.

  2. Mark the boundary of your earth berm on the existing ground with the landscape marking paint or orange spray paint. This does not have to be exact, it is used as a guide to set the rough shape of your berm.

  3. Lay the fill, if you are using it, in the central area of the berm location. Fill is pea gravel or other such material, and is used mainly for a high berm and to improve drainage in a very soggy area. This is not necessary on a simple berm, but if you are working in a very wet area you may wish to add this step to avoid your earth berm eroding from the bottom and becoming ineffective.

  4. Add earth to the berm area by beginning at the outer boundaries you have marked, and working inward until the entire area is covered. You can have the earth dumped in your location if someone is bringing the dirt as fill or delivering the soil. In this case, you will have them dump the earth and you will shape, spread and tamp with your tools by hand. If enough fill is dumped, you can create a mound shape by keeping the height to the center and spreading it in a thinner layer out to the sides. If you are building by hand, you will spread your base by dumping wheelbarrow loads of dirt, then building height and shape towards the center. If you have used fill dump and spread over the fill, making sure not to mix much of the gravel with the earth until the gravel is well covered.

  5. Continue adding earth and spreading until you get the rough height and shape you desire. Tamp the earth down and rake smooth. Add dirt to areas that sink or are low until the berm is the desired shape and height.

  6. Add a layer of topsoil to the berm if the dirt you have used is fill grade and needs extra nutrients for growth, especially if you are adding sod. Lay out your sod, or sow your grass seed or ground cover mix, such as a wildflower mix, if this is not to be used as a lawn area. Roll the sod with the water roller if you have used that option to flatten and smooth it out. To avoid erosion, water the sod or seed mix until it begins to take root and establishes a solid base.

About the Author

Caprice Castano recently left the field of construction management to operate her own contracting business and spend time developing her writing career. Current projects include freelance writing for Internet publications and working on novel-length fiction.