Drainage Swales and Berm


A swale is a shallow drainage channel with gentle side slopes in the ground where water running off a site can collect and soak away.

Swales can be used to channel run-off from roads, and yards, where it collects into pools before soaking away. You can also use swales to carry water through a site.

Swales can run alongside roads so that run-off from the road surface can drain directly to the swale. You can also use them in the treatment of lightly contaminated run-off from hard standing around farmyards and farm roads.

When building a swale, you can include check dams to slow the flow of water. This allows the sediment to settle out. You can also use swales to carry water between sustainable drainage system (SUDS) features instead of using pipes. This can reduce the cost of construction and maintenance.

Swale can be used for linking SUDS dealing with run-off from individual sites and SUDS that manage the run-off from large areas.



A berm is an easy way to add interest and height to the landscape, especially in dull, flat lawn areas. Berms are simply mounded hills of dirt constructed for many reasons such as blocking out unwanted or unsightly views, directing or redirecting foot traffic or drainage, creating subtle and natural-looking privacy, adding raised elements to the garden, or simply emphasizing a particular area or focal point.

Berms are often constructed using some type of fill. Use the fill material for the bulk of the berm, if desired. Recycled objects can also be used in pace of fill as long as the material is capable of retaining stability without deteriorating. Simply use the soil to form the berm around the object, firmly tamping as you go. You can use the soil taken when you dug out holes, but for more vigorous plant growth, the soil should also be amended with compost.


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