Affordable Succulent Landscapes

Affordable Succulent Landscapes

We know that most customers who try to save water outdoors do it to save money. We also know when it comes to landscaping projects, grass removal is cheaper than new plant purchases.  To help you along in your water savings projects, we would like to share with you some affordable ways you can use succulents in your new landscaping project.

The secret is through propagation. Propagation involves taking cuttings of a healthy plant to clone new plants and is especially easy to do with succulents.

  1. Cut off one of the stems, offsets, or clusters of the succulent you want to use.
  2. Let the wound from the cut dry for 3-5 days.
  3. Plant in soil.
  4. Water normally.

Once you understand this simple propagation, you can use the cuttings elsewhere in your landscape. This way you don’t have to purchase multiples of the same plant, or in many cases avoid purchasing plants at all!

Know Which Plants to Look For

If you are considering buying plants, know the full size of the species first. This will help you to know how much room they need to grow. Then look for smaller pots of that species since smaller potted plants are cheaper. They may be small at first, but they will grow to full size in no time. You can also look for pots that have more than one plant in them. Look for succulents with offsets, pups or multiple clusters. Each of these groupings can easily be cut to create a new plant.


Look for Vendors Who Sell Cuttings

These are typically much cheaper than what you would pay at a garden store or nursery. The Water Conservation Garden sells cuttings at $5 per bag, which is a great way to get started. In addition, you will have a diverse selection to continue to propagate from.

Use Your Own Cuttings

Succulents can grow quickly and require trimming every now and then. This is a perfect opportunity to create more cuttings and fill in other areas.

Talk With Your Neighbors

Asking a neighbor if they could offer you a succulent cutting is a great way to stay in touch or meet your neighbors. One of the added benefits to this is that they can see their plants growing across the street.

Look for Succulent Swaps or Social Groups

Two groups in the area are the Grossmont- Mt. Helix Improvement Association and the San Diego Succulent Swap. Grossmont- Mt. Helix Improvement Association hosts an annual “Friends Don’t Let Friends Buy Succulents” event where neighbors donate cuttings, bulbs and seeds and offer them free to the public. Look for their next event and feel free to donate some cuttings of your own!

Another is the Facebook group SD Succulent Swap, which is full of succulent enthusiasts who share cuttings at various tables all across the county. It is a great way to find succulents and learn other creative landscaping ideas.

Affordable landscaping takes patience and creativity, but in the end, you can have a beautiful water-saving landscape. The best part is that your landscaping improvements can beautify your home and neighborhood.

Stay tuned for other tips and tricks by following our blog at the bottom of this page.

Helix awards mini-grant for fifth grade desalination project

Helix awards mini-grant for fifth grade desalination project

Helix Water District has awarded Saint John of the Cross Catholic School, located in Lemon Grove, a $250 educational mini-grant for its fifth grade science program. Helix Board of Director Mark Gracyk presented the check to Aurelia Barreto, the teacher who applied for the grant, her fifth-grade class and Principal Greg Krumm at a school assembly on May 28, 2019.

Mrs. Barreto is developing a science module that will introduce her fifth grade students to the limited availability of fresh water and the challenges associated with developing alternative water supplies. Through hand-on activities, students will recreate the water cycle and attempt to desalinate ocean water. The mini-grant will be used to purchase materials for the desalination experiment.

As part of its school education program, Helix awards up to three $250 mini-grants each year to schools within its service area for water-related projects or programs. Applications are sent out each fall to all schools within district boundaries. Saint John of the Cross Catholic School is located in Lemon Grove and serves students in preschool through middle school.

Native Garden Wins Helix’s 2019 Landscape Contest

Native Garden Wins Helix’s 2019 Landscape Contest

Helix Water District has named Matt and Lauren Kirkpatrick of La Mesa as this year’s winner of its WaterSmart Landscape Contest, an annual competition that recognizes outstanding water-wise residential landscapes based on overall attractiveness, design, efficient irrigation and appropriate plant selection and maintenance.

Compared to the Kirkpatricks’ previous lawn, this growing, colorful and entirely native landscape requires very little water and creates a place of inspiration and peace for these outdoor enthusiasts. Over the two-month billing period ending this April, this home used just 13 units of water, which is almost 40 percent less than the average water use of other Helix customers.  One unit is 748 gallons.

The Kirkpatricks purchased the home in 2014 with a front yard full of grass that required frequent watering and mowing just to maintain a modest appearance. In the end, the lawn’s appearance was lackluster and proved to be too costly and time consuming for the couple. Taking advantage of SoCal WaterSmart’s grass removal rebate program, the Kirkpatricks tossed their turf for a landscape that requires less maintenance, less water and offers more beauty.

The two chose a native plant pallet so that they can bring home the look, feel and smell of what they love – the California outdoors. “California natives were an obvious choice,” said Matt Kirkpatrick. “They are a reflection of our love for the plants we know closely from our experiences outdoors. Native plants make us feel at home and give us an appreciation for the beauty of our state.”

Although only a few months old, the yard already displays a wonderful spring bloom with a wide variety of colors that native landscapes can offer. There are vibrant oranges from hundreds of California poppies, reds from sticky monkey flower, blues from ceanothus, purples from lupine, yellows from yarrow and plenty of green and golds from various shrubs and grasses. At the center of the landscape is a young but promising Engelmann Oak, a signature Southern California tree among wild and urban landscapes.

Plants receive water from rainwater catchment and through an efficient irrigation system, which the couple installed. The landscape captures rainwater from the roof and diverts it into two separate swales designed to absorb the water and allow it time to soak into the soil. The two swales provide water for half of the yard and prevent rainwater from running off into the street. The remaining plants receive water through high-efficiency spray nozzles that were retrofitted onto the existing irrigation system and use less water than the previous sprinklers. The Kirkpatricks only run the system once per month during the warm season.

Native gardens are just one of many different designs of landscapes available to homeowners looking to redesign their thirsty and traditional landscapes. In addition to requiring minimal irrigation beyond rainfall, native gardens are colorful, low maintenance and provide a natural habitat for local wildlife.

Helix will invite the Kirkpatricks to receive their prizes—gift cards totaling $250 and an award certificate—at Helix Water District’s Board of Directors Meeting on Wednesday, June 19 at 6:00 pm. Kirkpatrick also will get a WaterSmart contest winner’s sign to display in the yard.

Photos of the Kirkpatricks’ yard will appear in the winner’s section at, along with Helix’s past winners and those of other local water agencies, and on the district’s website at

The landscape contest runs from January through April each year.  Visit Helix’s website at, or Twitter at @HelixWater for more information.

Helix Water District treats and delivers water to over 276,000 people in La Mesa, El Cajon, Lemon Grove and parts of Spring Valley, Lakeside and unincorporated San Diego County.

May 19-25 is National Public Works Week

May 19-25 is National Public Works Week

Every day…

we turn on the faucet and clean, safe water comes out,

we flick the switch and the lights come on,

we cook food over a gas-powered flame,

our waste just goes away,

we drive on paved streets,

the traffic lights work,

the air we breathe is even cleaner than it used to be,

and our cellphones have service.

This is all possible thanks to the skills and commitment of the people who build, operate and maintain our public works. May 19-25 is National Public Works Week, and Helix Water District would like to say thank you to our own employees, to SDG&E and to the public works departments and crews at the County of San Diego and the cities Helix serves – La Mesa, Lemon Grove and El Cajon.

Helix Water District honors local student artists

Helix Water District honors local student artists

Helix Water District honored local student artists for their winning Water Is Life posters at an awards ceremony during Helix Water District’s board meeting on May 22, 2019.

Each year, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, one of the Helix’s wholesale water providers, holds a regional poster contest for students in kindergarten through sixth grade to increase student’s awareness about water.

Helix promotes the contest to all K-6 schools within its service area. This year, 220 students from 20 schools submitted posters depicting how to use water wisely. The following students took top honors:

Grade K-3 Category

1st Place
Eden Olivas, Flying Hills Elementary, Grade 2

2nd Place
Sofia Figueroa, Murdock Elementary, Grade 3

3rd Place
Mia Lara, Saint John of the Cross, Grade K

Honorable Mention
Octavio Calderon, Saint John of the Cross, Grade 2

Honorable Mention
Allegra Diller, Saint John of the Cross, Grade 2

Grade 4-6 Category

1st Place
Zoe Miles, Flying Hills Elementary, Grade 6

2nd Place
Karina Rodriguez, Avondale Elementary, Grade 6

3rd Place
Aaron Moreno, Bostonia Language Academy, Grade 4

Honorable Mention
Valeria Ramirez, Saint John of the Cross, Grade 4

Honorable Mention
Irene Tehan-Boren, Flying Hills Elementary, Grade 6

Helix will forward the winning posters to Metropolitan Water District of Southern California for consideration for their 2020 Water Is Life calendar. Metropolitan is currently exhibiting the winning posters from last year’s contest at water utilities throughout Southern California. Helix will host the exhibit from May 28 to June 4 in our Administration Office lobby at 7811 University Avenue in La Mesa.

This week’s winning posters have also been posted on Helix’s Facebook page at


Customer Appreciation Day is Saturday, May 18

Customer Appreciation Day is Saturday, May 18

The Water Conservation Garden has invited all Helix Water District customers to Customer Appreciation Day on Saturday, May 18, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., to say “Thank you for supporting The Garden”.

The event is FREE, parking is FREE and Kona Ice will be keeping it cool with FREE Hawaiian Shave Ice, which begins as a snow cone but tastes like a Hawaiian vacation when the sweet cream and fresh fruit are added (one free shave ice per person while supplies last).There will be kids’ activities and Ms. Smarty Plants, Butterfly Encounters and Tortoise Talk, and homeowners can learn how to “Toss the Turf”, discover drought-tolerant plants, get landscaping advice and tour The Garden’s five acres for landscaping inspiration.

Is The Garden a good place to spend a Saturday morning? Yeah it is. In our customer survey, our customers rated The Water Conservation Garden as their favorite conservation program. And, 57 percent of our customers who visited or took a class at The Garden went home and applied what they learned in their own landscapes. That’s big! Helix will be at the event on Saturday to answer your irrigation and landscaping questions.

The Water Conservation Garden is located on the Cuyamaca College campus in El Cajon. It’s just off Jamacha at 12122 Cuyamaca College Drive West. For more information, go to

Tour Helix’s R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant

Tour Helix’s R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant

Want to see Helix’s water treatment process — how we produce the safe, high quality drinking water we deliver to your home? Reserve your spot on a tour of the R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant on Saturday, May 4, 2019 at 8:30am.

You’ll see each step of the treatment process, from the control room to the chemistry lab to the ozonation facility. The tour is a next session of Helix Water Talks, our new series tours and discussions to give customers an inside look at how we provide a safe and reliable water supply – from the science and engineering to the policies and operations.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

9550 Lake Jennings Park Road in Lakeside Map

Have a cup of coffee and meet the staff.

Tour the plant. Wear comfortable shoes!

Have more questions? Let’s discuss them.


Register Here

Helix awards college scholarships to two outstanding students

Helix awards college scholarships to two outstanding students

Last week, Helix awarded our $1,000 Robert D. Friedgen Scholarship to Mount Miguel High School senior Jade Mahaney and our $1,000 Dr. Lillian M. Childs Scholarship to Helix Charter High School senior Jack Hopper.

The district received 27 scholarship applications this year. Applicants must:

Live in Helix’s service area
Attend a university next fall
Have excellent academic standing
Excel in extracurricular activities and community service
Write an essay on how to develop a sustainable water supply
Provide a personal goals statement
Provide letters of recommendation

“Every one of this year’s applicants were outstanding students involved and contributing in a lot of different ways,” said Helix Director Kathleen Coates Hedberg, who headed up the selection committee. “But there was a small group of students who showed real leadership, and it was out of this group that our two 2019 recipients emerged.”

Mahaney started her own after-school program to tutor and mentor low-income and at-risk kids ages 6-17, and then partnered with the Boys & Girls Club to bring students from foster homes into the program. She has led the program from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. every day for the last six years. She is also the student body president at Mount Miguel High, started a new club at the school to support women students, is in the Spanish club and has been competing in Taekwondo for years.

Mahaney will attend San Jose State University next fall and major in business, with hopes of starting a nonprofit organization to provide college-preparatory and academic resources to low-income students.

Hopper got his start in theater production in middle school and has been volunteering his design and production skills, including writing, directing, lighting, sound engineering and videography since then to his old middle school, Helix Charter High School and various churches. He has developed and refined his skills to a level that he is also working — up to 60 hours a week — for theater and dance company productions as an independent contractor. He is also on Helix Charter High’s speech team, yearbook staff, cross country team, letter society and drama club.

Hopper plans to attend Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania next fall, major in theater design and production, and begin a successful career in the theater.

The Robert D. Friedgen Scholarship was established upon his retirement in 1998, after serving as Helix’s general manager for 19 years. Friedgen provided the seed money and the board and others contributed additional funding. The Dr. Lillian M. Childs Scholarship was started by the Helix board a year later to honor Ms. Childs upon her retirement and recognize the 20 years of service and leadership she had given to the district.

Both Childs and Friedgen were in the Helix boardroom last week to meet Mahaney and Hopper and wish them well in the years ahead.

PHOTOS / Top: Mount Miguel High School senior and 2019 Robert D. Friedgen Scholarship recipient Jade Mahaney with Friedgen, Helix Director Kathleen Coates Hedberg and the Helix Board of Directors. Below: Helix Charter High School senior and 2019 Lillian M. Childs Scholarship recipient Jack Hopper with Childs, Hedberg and the Helix Board.

Above: Jade Mahaney with her Grandmother and sister and Helix’s Mike Uhrhammer,

Above: Jack Hopper and his Mother.

Celebrate Spring this Saturday at the Spring Garden and Butterfly Festival

Celebrate Spring this Saturday at the Spring Garden and Butterfly Festival

The Water Conservation Garden is in full bloom, and every inch of the internationally-renowned botanical garden is ablaze in color in anticipation of the Spring Garden and Butterfly Festival, this Saturday, April 27, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The event, held in conjunction with Cuyamaca College and Heritage of the Americas Museum, will host dozens of craft vendors and feature hundreds of California native and water-efficient plants for sale. The day’s activities include Butterfly Releases, Butterfly Pavilion Tours, Story Time with Ms. Metamorphosis, a Pollinator Party with Ms. Smarty-Plants for children, docent led garden tours, and discounted landscape design consultations.

Landscape Design Consultations are $20 for 20 minutes; a reservation and prepayment is required. Walk-ups are accommodated when possible. Please bring photos of your yard, a list of preferred plants (if any) and photos of landscape designs you like. Please call 619-660-0614 x10 in advance to register.

Other activities include:
– Edible and Ornamental Plant Sales
– Kids’ Activities, Craft Vendors
– Educational Exhibits and Presentations
– Water Agencies – Sustainable Water Use Information
– Free Admission to Heritage of the Americas Museum
– Face Painting and Butterfly Coloring Project
– Food Trucks
– Animal encounters and more!

We look forward to seeing you there!

The Water Conservation Garden is located at 12122 Cuyamaca College Drive West in El Cajon. For more information about The Garden, including detailed directions and a map, please go to

Enter the 2019 WaterSmart Landscape Contest

Enter the 2019 WaterSmart Landscape Contest

We want to recognize your landscape – show off your water saving yard for a chance to win a $250 gift certificate to the nursery of your choice.

The 15 annual WaterSmart Landscape Contest seeks to recognize Helix Water District customers for their beautiful, colorful and water-efficient landscapes. Judging criteria for landscapes includes overall attractiveness, design, efficient use of irrigation methods, plant selection and maintenance.

Applying is easy – simply take photos of your water-wise landscaping, share a brief story about why you installed your WaterSmart landscape, and upload your story and pictures to   

The deadline to submit contest application and photos is Friday April 26, 2019.

For more information, visit the contest website: or contact us at 619-667-6226.

Helix Helps at Lemon Grove Community Garden’s grand opening

Helix Helps at Lemon Grove Community Garden’s grand opening

This past Saturday, March 30, 2019, Helix Water District joined the Lemon Grove Community Garden for their grand opening celebration. Helix employees and their families volunteered early Saturday morning to help set-up chairs, spread mulch and prepare the site for the ribbon-cutting ceremony which began at 9:30 a.m.

The Lemon Grove Community Garden is located next to Civic Center Park at the northeast corner of Central Avenue and Olive Street and has 41 planting beds available for lease. The garden is run by the Lemon Grove Community Garden group, which leases land from the City of Lemon Grove and has partnered with the nonprofit Lemon Grove HEAL Zone and Thrive Lemon Grove.

Community gardens bring green spaces to urban areas. In addition to providing space for residents to grow organic fruits and vegetables, community gardens create neighborhood gathering spaces which can increase public safety and reduce blight. The district also hosted a community booth at the grand opening ceremony, providing drinking water and information on efficient watering to attendees.

Under the “Helix Helps” program, Helix employees, families and friends volunteer their time to help support the communities the district serves. Follow Helix on Facebook and Twitter to be notified of future events.


Helix awards mini-grant for rain barrels at local elementary school

Helix awards mini-grant for rain barrels at local elementary school

Helix Water District has awarded Lemon Avenue Elementary School a $250 mini-grant to purchase and install a rain barrel in their school garden. Helix Board of Director Kathleen Coates Hedberg presented the mini-grant check to Aimee Benson, lead teacher for the school’s garden, and her third-grade class on March 18, 2019.

Lemon Avenue Elementary is part of the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District and serves students in kindergarten through sixth grade.

Lemon Avenue Elementary students from all grade levels participate in the school’s award-winning garden program, which introduces students to healthy food choices and the importance of gardening, water conservation and sustainability. The mini-grant will be used to install a working rain barrel display, providing students first-hand experience with rainwater harvesting and alternative water supplies.

As part of its school education program, Helix awards up to three $250 mini-grants each year to schools within its service area for water-related projects or programs. Applications are sent out each fall to all schools within district boundaries.

Lemon Avenue Elementary School

Top of page: Aimee Benson, her third grade class and Helix director Kathleen Coates Hedberg. Below: The school’s garden. Bottom: One of the school’s new rain barrels.