Developing Your Central Texas Lot

I prefer to develop lots the slower, more precise way. I know this method may not be for everyone but it can be done and the result is lovely and ecologically sound. Most people bring in a major land clearing company that chomps everything in their machines path leaving nothing but impenetrable mulch behind. Nothing will grow through that thick mulch for years. Other major companies bring in dozers and scrape their way to cleared land. Yes, it gets rid of rock, grass, trees, plants really quickly but compresses the soil by the shear weight of these big machines, and it indiscriminately scrapes away all plant life leaving the disturbed land open to seeds of invasive species. I prefer a slower, more gentle means that leaves the native grasses and whatever other native plants that are there that you want. I call this “Slow Clearing”, “Gentle Clearing” or “Eco Clearing”. The result is a look like the land was perfect for you from the beginning. It looks like plants you don’t want were never there but you still have all your native grasses and whatever else you want. Your soil will not be so compacted leaving your soil healthier for your trees and other plants.

How It’s Done

First Things First. Make sure you know your property’s boundaries. Your survey is the best information on this but online aerial photos, topography maps and drone photos are also helpful. Following the key guide on your survey, you can usually find your markers yourself if you take the time. You may just need to get your surveyor back out there to mark the property boundaries for you. Whatever you do, make sure you are on your property. You need to get to know your land.

What to Wear

I always wear thick work boots, thick gloves and a long sleeved work shirt. If you are particularly worried about snakes, snake boots are good. Eye protection and a hat or other head covering such as a cap or bandana are good too. A bandana around the neck to cover any exposed skin around your neck at the top of your shirt opening is good too. I am forever getting cedar leaves inside my shirt and even bra so use a high buttoning shirt or the bandana front cover trick.

Get in There

Cedar forests may look impenetrable, but they are really not. I go in and use loppers to forge my way through, lopping off enough cedar limbs (really Juniper, Ashe Juniper or Juniperus ashei) to look for areas where I may want to build a home, barn, workshop or roadway. I look for the “path of least resistance”, an area that is naturally open, so I do not have to remove any hardwood trees when building a road into the property or a place for a building. In Spring, when the new Spring grasses are high, I use a Walk Behind String Trimmer to get a small pathway in. This machine will actually chop through cactus too while exposing rock. It is very easy to operate and costs around $330. to $350. new.

Identify What to Keep, What To Remove

As you work on your property, you will find amazing plant species. There are several varies of ferns in the Texas Hill Country, many beautiful cacti, lots of edible species, incredible wood like Mesquite, Bois d’arc and Texas Persimmon; incredible rocks and more. You may even find an incredible view you did not know you had. You may see bird nests or other creature homes. Give them a wide berth, life is happening there. I recommend having a professional Plant Survey done. This is an incredible step in your journey and you will learn so much. Be sure and leave plenty of areas with thicker brush, pretty much untouched, so wildlife can have a home. If your land has a 1-d-1 or Agricultural Valuation on it already, you can leave that in place or convert it to a 1-d-1 or Agricultural Valuation under Wildlife.

Bring in Help but Train Them

Anybody who is fit enough to work outside doing landscaping can do this work but will need training. I put together a guide book with printed pictures of the plants I want to keep and the plants I want to remove in the areas where I am going to build or have a family recreational spot. You can buy colored string or surveyors tape to mark shrubs, cactus or certain limbs for removal. Colored Gorilla or duct type tapes are good to mark rocks you want to remove. There are not many people trained in this slow development process.

Benefits to You

All the while you are working on and exploring, you will fall in love with your land and the wildlife and biodiversity it supports. You are a steward of the land. Treat it with kindness and it will give more back than you could ever ask for! Generations, years from now will be thankful you took the time to preserve and steward the land! Additionally, you are practicing Shinrin-Yoku or “Forest Bathing” out in your woods. You are soaking up all the sights, sounds, smells as well as touching and working with nature. This can boost your immune system and focus, lower blood pressure, heart rate and stress level and more.



Green Land Development Consulting, Classes

Land Stewardship Workshops, Wildlife Enhancement Workshops, Native Grass Workshops and Tree and Shrub Workshops at Selah Bamberger Ranch Preserve

Randall G. Arendt FRTPI Land Conservation Advisor

Native and Invasive Plant ID and Apps

iNaturalist site and phone app

Native Plant Society of Texas

Texas Invasives site and phone app

Texas Parks and Wildlife

The Wildflower Center

Shinrin-Yoku or Forest Bathing

The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs


Betty Saenz is a Texas Master Naturalist and EcoBroker or GREEN REALTOR passionate about preserving Texas’ open spaces, wildlife and plants. Contact Betty Saenz to buy or sell land, ranches and horse properties in central Texas