Phil and Shelly Crone aren’t sure why all the plants on their farm are dying.
Elkhorn gardeners had to replace two arborvitae species, and the perennial grasses and lavender plants also died.
“I think we take good care of our yard and plants, so we’re not sure why we’re struggling with berms,” Phil said. “I know the soil isn’t the best, but when we plant, we add good soil.”
Although they bounced back, their bad luck continued when their zinnias were struck by a fungus. The Sodom you sowed is doing well.
We turned to an expert for advice. JT Savoie knows a lot about berms as part of his job as a landscape designer for Llanoha Nurseries.
A big issue for landowners who put berms in the middle of the lawn is water, especially if they have an irrigation system.
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“Landscape plants need an inch of water a week, grass needs 3,” Savoy said. “Landscape plants want to apply water slowly. Lawns want the water close to the surface.
So, depending on the layout, your irrigation system can drown your plants.
According to Savoy, preparing the soil for plants is also important. Plants need well-drained soil with nutrients. A mixture of topsoil, compost and perlite to help saturate the soil.
Nebraska clay soil is useful when building a berm from scratch. Start by using your shovel to break up the topsoil and then work it in with a rototiller. Add another third of clay as a yoke and level the shape of the berm. Then add the last third of top soil and compost.
Do not build the entire structure on top of the soil. Savoy says he will loosen about 18 inches of tilled clay soil in a 12-foot-wide berm and then add compost to reach a height of 24 inches.
“You want them to be strong enough to be stable,” he said.
When it comes to design aesthetics, Savoy says, you don’t want your berm to look like a buried whale or a loaf of bread. Oh, heaven forbid, Jelly Bean. Consider the size of your home; A small berm may look ridiculous in front of a large structure.
Each leg you climb should have at least 3 feet on each side, Savoy said.
“You might also have an S-curved berm, which is longer in one place and goes down and up. The long space should be wide,” he said. “If the height is 2 feet, the berm should measure 6 feet on each side. If the height is only one foot in the skin area, it should be 6 feet in total.
When inserting the plants, treat the berm like the plant with a shock, fill and drain. It’s a way to create some architectural interest.
A simple recipe, Savoy said, is to start with the wonderful ornamental tree. Maybe a weeping white spruce or serviceberry. When going down a layer, include shrubs such as Quick Fire hydrangea, Center Glow ninebark or Tiger Eyes sumac. Finally, add herbs such as black-eyed susans, salvia, dianthus, and daisies.
To add texture, grasses are important. Savoy likes Carl Forster, Prairie Dropseed or Little Bluestem. If you want to create a spine or a row of shrubs to help divide two areas, boxwoods are a good bet.
Maybe start with a long item at one end and then gradually reduce the size of the plant, placing the smaller one on the stem.
You don’t want to end up with a sea of weeds surrounding your plants, so use rock or a dry creek bed to break up the monotony. If you are increasing the height, a stone will help to anchor the soil.
Savoy said nothing jumped out at him about what was wrong with Krohn’s berm. He recommends that they have excellent soil, do not overwater and put the right plants in the right place. He said arborvitaes might not like the place.
He recommends buying plants at a local garden center. He said those from big box stores often come from southern states and are not well suited to the conditions in Nebraska.
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