This will be your new favorite website

This will be your new favorite website

Are you working on, or thinking about, installing a new landscape? If the answer yes, we found your muse. is the spot for landscaping ideas and know-how, right up there with, which we featured in a blog post last year.

For a lot of us, the “what do want our new landscape to be?” question is a lot scarier than the hard work of clearing out old plants and installing new ones. This is the creative part of a landscaping project, and it conjures up equal parts excitement and anxiety. Go to and let beautiful photos of beautiful landscapes instill you with ideas and confidence.

This site is not all about water efficiency — it features properties throughout the country. But a lot of these landscapes are in California. Click on the See All the Winners of the Gardenista Considered Design Awards link at the top of their site and explore the Best Curb Appeal, Best Edible Garden and Best Outdoor Living Space entries. Then hover on the Garden Design 101 link and let the learning and creativity begin.



You had us at “putting green”

You had us at “putting green”

We love beautiful WaterSmart landscapes, and even more, we love to highlight those that our customers have installed. Join us as we highlight different Helix Water District customers and their beautiful, water-wise, sustainable yards – and get inspired to upgrade your landscape.

Customer profile: Morris residence
Neighborhood: Horizon Hills in El Cajon

When Betty Clement Morris and Tom Morris purchased their one-acre Horizon Hills home 23 years ago, they became the owners of property with a beautiful mountain view, a few established trees and a lot of dirt and weeds. After years of envisioning a more inviting entrance, they finally got inspired to start their project after attending a landscape makeover class hosted by Helix Water District. They installed an eclectic and lush low-water landscape that highlights their mountain views, an artificial turf putting green for Tom and low-volume irrigation to water the plants efficiently, incorporating both form and function in their landscape design.

Q: What was here before?

A: Being dedicated “academics” my husband, Tom, and I knew little about taking care of a house on an acre of land when we bought it 23 years ago. We had a very pretty entry way dominated by a large bougainvillea with 10 stairs and a walkway leading up to the front door, but when you got to the top of the stairs what you saw was a flat area with about 4800 square feet of weeds.  There were two tipuana tipu trees in the middle of the yard and a few other bushes around the perimeter.

We’ve made various attempts to cut and water the weeds, and through the years the yard has gone back and forth from high water green to dry dead weeds and dirt. Always in the back of our minds was a vision of a beautiful garden.  We didn’t want to put in plants that were too tall because from the house they would block the view of the mountains in the distance. But I wanted some color, flowers and a cool lush feeling to counteract the heat of El Cajon – drought resistant, but no hot dry desertscape for me!


Q: Where did your design ideas come from?

A:  Everywhere! I took gardening classes and joined a garden club. We received valuable input from Tom Piergrossi, Chris Wotruba, Betty Newton, Rancho San Diego Garden Club members and the Conservation Garden. I started collecting drought resistant plants that I liked, and had many in pots, but couldn’t find anyone to work with us to plant what we wanted without a complete plan on paper. And we didn’t want to be limited to a particular “style” of garden since many of the plants we liked were representative of different styles. Having to choose plants that could survive the hot sun of the southern exposure when the tipu trees were bare, but could flower in the partial shade when the trees were full of leaves and flowering added to the perplexity. We were overwhelmed and we couldn’t get started.

Q: What motivated this project?

A:  After we both retired, I took the water district’s 2014 landscape makeover class with the emphasis on drought tolerant plants and we were finally inspired and able to organize it well enough to start planning on our own.  It went slowly because we changed our minds as we went along. I wanted the garden and by then my husband wanted a putting green so we divided the yard in half.  Francisco Ramirez had put in a paver driveway for us, and my husband asked him to put in an artificial grass putting green. In the process, Francisco laid a weed barrier on the other half of the yard, laid out the drip sprinkler system, and Tom and I started planting a little at a time. We used left over “grass” from the putting green to fill in a strip near the house. It looks quite natural with no maintenance other than blowing off the leaves along with the pathway clean up.

Q:  What do you like best about your new landscape?

A:  It’s finished and we no longer need to be embarrassed in the face of all our garden-lover friends and everyone who has helped us wondering why we haven’t progressed! We feel free to enjoy it and love coming home and, at the top of the stairs, seeing each new plant as it blooms.  From the house we view a colorful garden with the mountains in the background. Tom enjoys his putting green and the green adds to the serenity. When the tipu trees bloom they leave a lovely carpet of gold over the whole yard. Spectacular!

Q:  Are you saving water?

A:   At first I thought we weren’t because we had to make several changes to the watering system. While dealing with the front yard drip, we also replaced several other sprinkler systems with MP Rotors and drip. Now that I look back at our water bills, I see that we have indeed decreased the number of water units by about 100-200 units per year. Given that we have an acre of irrigated land, three controllers and 17 watering stations, that’s significant.

Q:  Does it take more or less time for maintenance?

A:  Up to this point, it has certainly taken more maintenance than before when we had nothing in the front yard. It took several irrigation experts and large adjustments to find the right watering system for the plants we have and figure how to link it to our other front yard systems. We just recently conquered this dilemma. We anticipate much less work now that the major labor has been done.

Q:  Do you have any tips for other homeowners?

A:  1)  Be patient! For all the plants we put in, it seemed sparse before this year when it filled in and burst into bloom. However, we now see that we have more plants than we need in one place. I suspect that some plants will simply take over the smaller ones if we choose to let them–the low maintenance way. Or we can keep cutting the big ones back.

2)  Don’t be afraid to make changes until you get it right! For the lantana that spreads along the ground, the emitters got lost under the plants and were hard to see to know when to adjust them. We put the heads too close together and overwatered the plants. When we changed that line to low volume mini sprinklers, we used less water, covered the area better and could monitor the usage.

Thank You

Thank you, Morris family for sharing your lovely and sustainable landscape with us. You’ve created a landscape that is not only beautiful, but also meets the needs and wants of your family.

Inspired to upgrade your landscape but not sure where to start? Consider registering for a free WaterSmart Landscape Program workshop or series of classes.

Do you have a beautiful, WaterSmart landscape that you would like to share with others? Contact us at and you could be featured in a future blog article.

Don’t Miss July in The Garden

Don’t Miss July in The Garden

We have three big ideas for enjoying the summer and getting ready to plant a water efficient garden in the fall: go to each of these events this month at The Water Conservation Garden.


July 15 / Planting Water and Growing Soil

Regenerate your landscape with both “active” and “passive” sustainable planting and water harvesting strategies that can be used on any scale.  Landscape professionals, Communitree Gardens, share techniques to modify land contour in a hands-on class that will cover a lot of ground.  Class made possible by the San Diego County Watershed Protection Program. FREE

Please call 619-660-0614 x10 to register.


July 20 / Wags and Wine

The Garden is staying open late the third Thursday in June, July and August for you to enjoy fine wine and a leisurely stroll with your furry friend. Enjoy a lovely summer evening among the beautiful and unusual plants and trees. If possible, please bring your own wine glass to help us reduce waste.  Wine and yummy snacks for people and dogs will be provided.

$5 per guest. CLICK HERE to register.


July 20 / Designing with California-Friendly Plants

Create a water-wise garden design from scratch.  Clayton Tschudy, Director of Horticulture, will discuss topics including site analysis and measurement, plotting your design on paper, environmental factors and water-efficient plant grouping.

Members Free, Non-Members $10. Please call 619-660-0614 x 10 to register.

July is Smart Irrigation Month

July is Smart Irrigation Month

Over half of the water we use in our region is applied outdoors and, historically, water use is highest in July because the days are the longest, the weather is the hottest and the plants are the thirstiest. Plants struggle in July. They need water and they’re depending on you.  This is the month to be smart about watering and spruce up your irrigation system.

In recognition of Smart Irrigation Month, Helix would like to offer some suggestions. Turn on each of your irrigation zones and observe how the irrigation system is performing. Look at where the water is being applied. While preforming this walk through, look for these common problems:


Overspray is the result of a sprinkler applying water where it is not intended to go. Not only does overspray create a slipping hazard, it contributes to runoff (water on the sidewalk or in the street) and causes damage to hardscape, fences, and buildings.

To fix this, adjust the radius of your spray heads to make sure the water only goes where it is needed. This is easy to do. There is a screw on top of each spray head. Turn the screw clockwise while the spray head is on and watch the radius of the spray head decrease. Stop turning the screw when the spray is on the plants and off the hardscape. If you need to reduce the radius more than 25%, install a smaller radius spray head nozzle.


Check to make sure the spray patterns of your sprinklers are not blocked. Vegetation blockage tends to overwater one plant while depriving others of water.

To fix this, trim back plants around the spray head or raise the spray head’s  body. If the irrigation zone is all shrubs, flowerbeds or trees, consider converting the entire zone to  a more efficient drip irrigation system. Consider a drip conversion kit which allows you to retrofit your existing sprinkler system. Most include filters and pressure regulation, which are critical for the long-term success of drip irrigation.

Mixed Sprinklers

Different sprinkler nozzles apply water at different rates. A traditional spray head, for example, may apply water at a rate of one gallon per minute, while a newer rotary nozzle will apply half that amount. And drip irrigation may apply water at a rate of one gallon per hour. Use these different sprinklers together in the same irrigation zone, for the same amount of time, and you will either over-water or under-water areas of your landscape.

To fix this, don’t mix different types of sprinklers — spray heads, rotary nozzles, rotors and drip — in the same irrigation zone. Are you wondering which sprinklers to keep and which to replace?  If you have old (really old) spray heads, you can save a lot of water by replacing them with rotary nozzles for turf and drip for plants.


Misting is the result of having too high of water pressure in your irrigation system. This fine mist is easily carried by the wind away from your plants, leaving them high and dry. High pressure increases water use, too, and it causes heavier wear on irrigation components, making them more likely to fail in the future.

To fix this, you can install a pressure regulator on the water line to your irrigation system or each of your irrigation valves, or you can install new sprinklers with built-in pressure regulators. Learn more in this Hunter Industries video.

These and many other problems are all commonly observed through our Home Water Use Evaluations at single-family homes and Irrigation Check-ups at commercial and multi-family properties — which Helix offers free to our customers.

To learn more about these services or to schedule your FREE Home Water Use Evaluation or Irrigation Check-up, call 619-667-6226 or email

The drought is over — now what?

The drought is over — now what?

Photo: Sierra snowpack.

Governor Brown declared California’s drought over on April 1, 2017 and last week, Helix’s board of directors rescinded the district’s Level 1 Drought Watch.

While water supplies have drastically improved over the past year, we know that we’ll face more droughts in the future. The chart below, created by the San Diego County Water Authority, shows that California has experienced continual cycles of wet and dry years for decades:

Regionally, San Diego water suppliers have worked together for decades to protect ourselves from these repetitive cycles. Projects such as the Carlsbad Desalination Plant help reduce negative impacts on residents during dry periods.

But additional water supplies are expensive and can’t be relied on alone. We also need everyone to use the water we have responsibly, in and out of drought. Don’t waste water by letting it run into the gutter when you water, and don’t water during the rain.

Although the drought is over, our permanent water efficiency measures remain in place:

  • Do not wash down hardscape unless required for public safety
  • Eliminate irrigation runoff and overspray
  • Do not water for at least 48 hours following rain
  • Do not water turf on public street medians
  • Use recirculated water in fountains and water features
  • Use a hose with a positive shut-off nozzle when washing vehicles
  • Restaurants may only serve water upon request
  • Hotels must offer guests the option of not laundering towels and linens daily

These measures not only prevent water waste, but most importantly, protect our water resources as we continue to move in and out of droughts in the future.

Mediterranean Edible Garden Style–inspiration for your landscape

Mediterranean Edible Garden Style–inspiration for your landscape

Based on all of the questions we answered at Customer Appreciation Day a couple of weeks ago, we know that many homeowners are deciding how to relandscape now that water use restrictions have ended.

There’s two steps to relandscaping: the first step is deciding what to do — the design — and the second is doing it — the installation.  Whether you are doing it all yourself, or plan to work with a landscape designer, the first step in the design process is learning what you like.

You need to do some research, and the best place to start is This website features photos of landscape design projects, posted by the designers, and stories and helpful advice for your project. The photos are the real resource for developing and sharing your design ideas. Sign up on the site and you can save the photos you like, creating a collection of design ideas, plants and trees.

Here’s a story from to inspire you. Enjoy.

Recipe for Mediterranean Edible Garden Style




Reserve Your Seats for June 10 Landscape Workshop

Reserve Your Seats for June 10 Landscape Workshop

We have seats available for our WaterSmart Landscape Design Workshop from 9:00am to 12:00pm on Saturday, June 10th at our operations center in El Cajon.

June is the perfect time to attend our workshop because it puts you on track for planting a new, water efficient landscape in November, and letting winter rainstorms provide the extra water new plants need:

June — Attend WaterSmart Landscape Design Workshop.

June-August — Explore design ideas in books, magazines, on the web and around your neighborhood.

September — Make a plan for your yard showing the layout and measurements, spaces for relaxing, eating or planting a vegetable garden, plant groupings, trees and irrigation.

October — Clear all unwanted landscaping, improve your soil and install irrigation.

November — Install plants.

The free, 3-hour workshop will show you how to have a beautiful landscape using a fraction of the water that a traditional landscape needs. The workshop is taught by one of our local landscape experts and brought to you by Helix and the San Diego County Water Authori

You will learn

  • How to convert your turf area to water efficient landscape
  • How to select plants that thrive in our Mediterranean climate
  • How to analyze your yard, identify your soil type, remove turf and irrigate efficiently
  • How to create a professional landscape with planting and irrigation designs ready for installation

Reserving your seats is easy to do. The reservation form is on the workshop’s webpage. Click on the link below to go there.

Reserve your seats for the June 10 landscape workshop

We Have a Winner!

We Have a Winner!

Helix Water District has named Chandrika “Dusty” Patel-Lynch of La Mesa as this year’s winner of its WaterSmart Landscape Contest.

The annual contest recognizes outstanding water-wise residential landscapes which are judged on overall attractiveness, appropriate plant selection and maintenance, design and efficient irrigation methods.

After converting to a low-water landscape, Patel-Lynch’s single-family home on Highwood Avenue uses just one third of the water it consumed a few short years ago, averaging 12 units per two-month billing period in 2016. One unit is 748 gallons.

“About five years ago, I decided to beautify the exterior of my home,” Patel-Lynch wrote in her contest entry statement. “The front landscape was covered with ivy, which must have been popular in the 1960s when the house was built.”

Patel-Lynch noted that she had always admired the water-wise yard of her nearby neighbor and friend, Angela Shaw.

“The decision to go drought-tolerant was a ‘no-brainer,’” Patel-Lynch wrote. “With cuttings from (Shaw’s) mature plants, I was able to cover quite a radius. Plus, in a quest to have variety, I have purchased succulents/cacti from various nurseries,” including barrel cactus, beaver tail cactus, fire sticks, sunbursts, and agave.

“I thought about height, texture and color. I didn’t create a design on paper. I just thought about it and planted.”

Helix will invite Patel-Lynch to receive her prizes—gift cards totaling $250 and an award certificate—at a ceremony at the Water Conservation Garden in Rancho San Diego at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 21.

Patel-Lynch also will get a WaterSmart contest winner’s sign to display in her yard. It will join a La Mesa Beautiful sign she said she was awarded about two years ago for a win in that competition’s “best color and design” category.

Although Patel-Lynch said she is quite happy with her yard, she said there is always more to do.

“I did it myself,” she said. “And that gives me pride. It keeps me rejuvenated. I’m constantly tinkering… because it’s never really done.”

Photos of Patel-Lynch’s yard will appear in the winners section at, along with Helix’s past winners and those of other local water agencies, as well as on the district’s website,

Call for entries for the contest usually begin in January of the competition year and the deadline for submissions is in early April. More information can be obtained through the Helix website,, or or Twitter @HelixWater.

Helix Water District treats and delivers water to more than 273,000 people in La Mesa, El Cajon, Lemon Grove and parts of Spring Valley, Lakeside and unincorporated San Diego County.

6 Reasons to Plant a Vegetable Garden Now

6 Reasons to Plant a Vegetable Garden Now

Why is Helix Water District promoting vegetable gardening? Because growing your own food is a good use of water and one more step on the path to sustainability. And, technically, most of the vegetables and herbs that grow here in San Diego are moderate water use plants, which means they need less water than the average lawn. Here are six reasons to plant a vegetable garden right now.

Reason #1
According to the San Diego County Master Gardeners, the time to plant warm season vegetables in our region is April to June. It’s May and it’s time to plant!

Reason #2
We’ll show you how.

What to Plant
This Vegetable Planting Guide was developed by the University of California and San Diego County and is featured on the San Diego County Master Gardeners website. The guide says that if you live inland — Lemon Grove, Spring Valley, La Mesa or El Cajon — plant these vegetables in spring: beans, sweet corn, cucumbers, eggplant, melons, okra, peppers, squash, sweet potatoes and tomatoes. Now is also the time to plant basil — yes, basil = pesto!

How to Improve Your Soil
Add compost, worm castings or manure to your soil before you plant — they add the organic nutrients that plants need. They are available by the bag at local nurseries. Empty a bag or two on to your soil and mix it in with a shovel.

How to Water
It’s easy and relaxing to hand-water a small vegetable garden with a hose (and a positive shut-off nozzle) or a watering can. Or you can install a drip irrigation system. These videos show you how to assemble the tubing and emitters and connect the system to a hose bib.


Reason #3
Our climate here in San Diego County allows year-round gardening. The Vegetable Planting Guide on the San Diego County Master Gardeners website recommends planting cool season vegetables in the fall: arugula, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, endive, kale, lettuce, onions, peas, spinach and turnips. Fall is also the time to plant cilantro!

Reason #4
You don’t need your own yard. You can grow vegetables and herbs in pots on a balcony or you can find an open spot in a community garden for free or for rent. The San Diego County Master Gardeners have a list of community gardens on their website. There’s one on Spring Drive in Spring Valley and four in El Cajon. The list includes who to contact for each garden and their contact information.

Reason #5
If you don’t grow your own vegetables then you don’t know how good vegetables taste! My wife and I rent a raised bed in a small community garden and our first planting last November was cool season vegetables. All winter long we ate amazing salads with arugula that tasted nutty and spicy, fresh kale and snow peas. In April, we planted our first warm season vegetables: tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini.

Reason #6
This is an opportunity to eat better, feel better, and even to go organic. Avoid using any non-organic soil amendments, fertilizers or pesticides and your soil and plants are organic!  And enjoying the intense flavors of food that you grew yourself is truly satisfying. Give it a try. 


Order your discounted rain barrel by March 5th

Order your discounted rain barrel by March 5th

San Diego County residents have until March 5th at 11:00pm to purchase discounted rain barrels online at The County of San Diego Watershed Protection Program and Solana Center for Environmental Innovation have teamed up to offer the barrels for only $90.

Purchased rain barrels will be ready for pick-up on March 11th, from 9:00am to 1:00pm at the Lakeside River Park Conservancy, at 10354 Channel Road in Lakeside (Directions). Print your purchase confirmation email and bring it with you to pick up your barrel(s).

The county’s webpage at features a video on how to install your rain barrel and a list of the barrel’s features. The 50 gallon rain barrels are made in the U.S.A. using 100 percent recycled materials.  They also have a screen over the water inlet to prevent mosquito breeding. The county requires screening and proper maintenance.

After purchasing your rain barrels, go to and apply online for a $35 rebate on up to two barrels. This will save you about 50 percent off the $129 retail price. Act fast as rebates are on a first come first served basis and only last until funding is exhausted.

Prior to purchasing a rain barrel, residents living in a homeowners association (HOA) should check with their HOA to ensure CC&Rs allow for the use of rain barrels and storage of rain water in their communities.

Explore the San Diego County Watershed Protection Program

Explore Solana Center for Environmental Innovation

State extends emergency drought regulations

State extends emergency drought regulations

Photo: Stranded car in floodwaters near San Rafael, California (source:

The State Water Resources Control Board voted Wednesday to extend emergency drought regulations for another 270 days.

“This is an emergency?” asked State Senator Jim Nielsen. “It’s pretty hard to argue to the public, the citizens of California, that we are now in an emergency.”

A growing coalition of legislators and water suppliers that includes Nielsen, Helix Water District and the San Diego County Water Authority has called on the State Water Resources Control Board to end the emergency regulations. The coalition increased its efforts in the weeks leading up to yesterday’s vote, as rain, snow and flooding inundated California.

The coalition recommends managing current drought conditions at the regional level, as moderate and severe drought conditions are now limited to parts of Central and Southern California and extreme drought conditions are limited to areas of Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

Explore the Issue
Read the San Diego Union Tribune story on the water board vote
Helix WD Feb 6 2016 Letter to Water Board
SDCWA Feb 3 2017 Letter to Water Board
ACWA Feb 3 2017 Letter to Water Board

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