Leander, Texas – Compost Amended Soil

On March 15th, 2007, the City of Leander, Texas approved Water Conservation Ordinance No. 07-018-00. Upon recommendation from the Lower Colorado River Authority and the Leander Planning and Zoning Commission, the city adopted this regulation (as a Composite Zoning Ordinance) in large part due to its geographic location. Drought-prone climate conditions, as well as sharing water rights to the Colorado River with regional states, warranted expanded water conservation and environmental landscaping policies; notable among these was a minimum required percentage of organic content for soils in landscaping activities. In particular, the city is interested in promoting drought resistant vegetation with the goal of increasing the water holding capacity of the soil, thus reducing water loss from evaporation or runoff in an area known to experience frequent droughts.[1]


The Ordinance

The Leander Code of Ordinances, Chapter 14 (Zoning), Article VI (Site Standards) details the current landscaping requirements brought forth by the original Water Conservation Ordinance. Its text can be accessed via this link, under “Chapter 14 – Zoning” in the Table of Contents side pane, or see the link to the PDF at the bottom of this page.

Section 1(b)(20-22) of Article VI addresses the mandatory use of compost for both new residential and non-residential landscapes. The latest version of the ordinance from 2013 requires homebuilders to offer what it terms a “WaterWise” landscape[2] option to homebuyers as part of the range of landscape options from the homebuilder. It goes on to identify the seven basic principles of WaterWise landscape design, installation, and maintenance practices. The relevant clauses are as follows:

(20) Soil Depth (New residential and nonresidential): All new landscapes (nonresidential and residential) are required to have a minimum of six inches (6″) of soil depth in areas planted with turfgrass. This six-inch (6″) minimum soil depth will consist of 75 percent soil blended with 25 percent compost. The soil/compost blend shall be incorporated into the top two inches of the native soil. The six-inch (6″) depth requirement does not apply to the area between the drip line and trunk of existing trees, shrub beds or wildscape areas. Areas with existing native vegetation that remain undisturbed shall be exempt from the soil depth provision of this section; provided that native soil and vegetation in such area is fenced during construction and protected from disturbance and compaction during the construction process.
(21)  Mulch (all nonresidential properties): All exposed soil surfaces of non-turf areas within the developed landscape area must be mulched with a minimum two-inch layer of organic material. Examples of organic material include pine bark, shredded cedar, composted leaves, and shredded landscape clippings. Native/wildscape areas are exempt.
(22) WaterWise Landscape Principles: These principles shall be an integral component of the landscape design and plan. Homebuilders shall be required to offer a WaterWise landscape option in any series of landscape options offered to home buyers. The seven basic principles of WaterWise landscaping include:

(i) Proper planning and design.
(ii) Proper soil preparation (compost-improved topsoil).
(iii) Practical turfgrass selection of drought resistant-species.
(iv) Appropriate plant selection. The plants listed as invasive plants to avoid in the Grow Green Guide, shall not be offered as part of a WaterWise landscape option.
(v) Efficient irrigation systems.
(vi) Use of mulches.
(vii) Appropriate maintenance.


Leander’s Code further identifies environmentally sustainable landscape design, installation, and maintenance practices in Article VI, Section 1(b). These have been summarized below:

  • Landscape installations and maintenance are to be done according to generally accepted landscape practices for the region.
  • Lower water demanding landscapes should include plants recommended by the Lower Colorado River Authority’s “Texas Hill Country Landscape Option Specifications.”
  • The code identifies the environmental landscape practice of adequate watering (for long-term, overall benefit) even in drought prone areas like Leander: “All planted areas shall be provided with a readily available water supply and watered as necessary to ensure continuous healthy growth and development.”
  • The owner of the landscaped property shall remove dead plant material and replace it if it was used to satisfy the requirements of the code.
  • The city further requires that all turf grass installations must have summer dormancy capabilities, and be one of the varieties listed as preferred by the Planning Department of the Grow Green Guide.


More Information


[1] City of Leander. 2013. “Composite Zoning Ordinance.” [link] [2] An area managed under WaterWise principles strives for “a beautiful healthy landscape with minimal supplemental irrigation and no adverse runoff from the landscape property.” See: Texas A&M University. n.d. “What is a WaterWise Landscape?” Texas Urban Landscape Guide. [link]

Original post from July 30, 2012
Updated July 13, 2021