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.

Everything You Need to Know About the Turf Rebate

Everything You Need to Know About the Turf Rebate

There is a new turf rebate program in town, and we would like to answer some of your questions.

The Turf Replacement Program now offers $2 per square foot when you replace existing lawns with sustainable landscaping. If you want to upgrade your landscape and save water, this quick guide will help you claim your rebate money today!

Reserve Your Rebate, Then Remove Grass

Before you start your project, submit photos of your grass and your rebate application to receive a rebate reservation. Once you receive a reservation, you have 180 days to complete your project.

What Qualifies?

Residential and commercial properties are eligible to receive $2 per square foot of grass when replaced with sustainable landscaping.

Grass must be alive and in place before your landscaping project begins. Only planted or permeable areas count towards your rebate. Residential customers are eligible to replace grass areas from 250 square feet up to 5,000 square feet. Commercial properties are eligible for up to 10,000 square feet per year.

This program promotes the best of both worlds: water savings and sustainability. These requirements will help you save water and have a healthy sustainable landscape with benefits beyond water savings.

Soil and Plant Coverage

The program requires you to include a minimum plant coverage of 3 plants per 100 square feet of transformed landscaping – think 3 plants for each 10’x10’ room. In addition, cover all bare soil areas with a 3 inch layer of mulch. Mulch can be wood chips, shredded bark or bark nuggets. You will be glad that you have mulch in your new landscaping since it helps your new landscape retain soil moisture, maintains a tidy appearance, prevents weeds and is inexpensive.

About Hardscapes 

You can include hardscapes in your design, but they will not count towards your rebate. Examples of common hardscapes include artificial turf, turf look-a-likes, impermeable walkways, and patios. 

Improve Overhead Sprinklers

Since the sprinklers on your lawn are probably not the most efficient, now is a great time to improve them . Drip irrigation systems are easy to install for your new plants and there are numerous retrofit kits available. You may also install high-efficiency spray heads and claim an additional rebate. See our video to learn how.

Capture Rain Water

Part of the benefits of removing your grass is that you can now capture, slow and sink rainwater for your other plants. There are many ways to do this beyond just rain barrels such as rain gardens, dry streambeds, berms, vegetated swales, rock gardens and grades. Visit the SoCal Water$mart website for more information

Ready to Get Started?

Start your rebate application today. Go to to reserve your funds.

Or, if you are looking for assistance in planning and designing your project, Helix is hosting a FREE four-part landscape makeover series. Class times are 6 – 9 p.m. September 4, 11, 18 and 25. Go to to register or find other open classes across the county.

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.

What are you doing Tuesday evening?

What are you doing Tuesday evening?

Most of the fantastic classes offered at The Water Conservation Garden are on the weekend, but next Tuesday, May 14, the garden is offering an evening class — Landscapes: Irrigation 101 & Soils.

The 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. class will teach you how to build the fertility and structure of the soil in your landscape so that it holds water and nutrients longer. Farmer and educator Paul Maschka from Wild Willow Farm will get down to the “dirt” of soils and irrigation so you can have a successful garden without the use of chemical inputs. The class is free and made possible by the San Diego County Watershed Protection Program.

Register at

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.

POSTPONED: April 3 landscape workshop

POSTPONED: April 3 landscape workshop

Back by popular demand! Helix is hosting a WaterSmart Landscape Design Workshop on Wednesday, April 3, 2019 at our Nat L. Eggert Operations Center in El Cajon.

The free, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. workshop will show you how to have a beautiful landscape that needs a fraction of the water, and a fraction of the maintenance, 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 Authority.

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 landscapewith planting and irrigation designs ready for installation

We encourage you to reserve your seats now as seating is limited and these workshops fill up fast. It’s easy to do: click on the link below and complete the registration form.


Grow more fruit trees in a small landscape

Grow more fruit trees in a small landscape

Have you ever heard of planting three different fruit trees in the same hole, with the trunks about two feet apart? This is called high-density planting and it is a useful technique when you have a small landscape. It’s also proven. During our recent droughts, California’s avocado growers learned that they could increase pollination and fruit yield without increasing water use by simply planting trees closer together.

Watch the 2:23 Video at

2019 Trends in Garden Design

2019 Trends in Garden Design

Which would you rather spend your weekends on:

A yard that doesn’t need much water?
A water efficient landscape?
A wonderful garden?

Water utilities prefer the term water efficient landscaping. But, honestly, the idea of a wonderful garden is far more intriguing. After all:

Yardwork is a chore — “work” is half the word. 
Landscaping is maintenance — so much work, so often, that we usually outsource it.
Gardening is a passion — people love their gardens.

It’s not hard to understand why people love their gardens — they are a creative endeavor full of possibilities. While a water efficient landscape saves water, a wonderful garden immerses us in color, feeds us, creates a home for birds and butterflies, gives us a place to enjoy dinner with friends under the stars, provides cool shade on a hot day and quiet sanctuary after work — and saves water, too.

If the idea of turning your yard or landscape into a wonderful garden sparks your imagination, then you’ll like 2019 Trends in Garden Design in Garden Design Magazine. The article reports on 10 trends shaping the world’s wonderful gardens, from “Keeping it Low Maintenance” to “Creating a Staycation Spot”, and provides a list of ideas for incorporating each of the trends in your own wonderful garden.

Read 2019 Trends in Garden Design in Garden Design Magazine

And, don’t forget our WaterSmart Landscape Design Workshop is coming up on Saturday, February 9 at 9:00 a.m.  If you’re raring to jump into your new gardening hobby, this workshop is a great place to begin. Reserve your seats!

Reserve Your Seats for Events at Helix and The Water Conservation Garden

Reserve Your Seats for Events at Helix and The Water Conservation Garden



The Lore of the Kumeyaay
Native Americans have inhabited San Diego County for over 10,000 years. Find out how they lived, their history, and spirituality, with long time student of Kumeyaay culture, Jan Tubiolo.

January 26 @ 10:30 a.m.
The Water Conservation Garden

Learn More and Register



Helix Water Talks: Helix Then and Now
Tour our 3-floor collection of historic photography and learn about the history of east county, Helix and our water supply, and what has changed over the years.

February 2 @ 8:30 a.m.
Helix Administration Office in La Mesa

Learn More and Register



WaterSmart Landscape Design Workshop
This free, 3-hour workshop will show you how to have a beautiful landscape that needs a fraction of the water, and a fraction of the maintenance, that a traditional landscape needs. 

February 9 @ 9:00 a.m.
Helix Operations Center in El Cajon

Learn More and Register

The 3 Things Helix Said to Cleantech San Diego

The 3 Things Helix Said to Cleantech San Diego

Cleantech San Diego is a nonprofit organization that fosters collaboration between companies, government agencies and universities in the San Diego region to encourage investment in the technologies needed to make cities sustainable.

The nonprofit’s 100-plus members include the region’s universities, many of its cities and the likes of Qualcomm and Cisco, Ernst & Young and the Toronto Stock Exchange, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and venture capital firms, and a number of technology and energy startups.

Two water utilities are also members — Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the largest water utility in the United States, and Helix Water District. I asked Helix Facilities Manager Joe Garuba, who helps support sustainability initiatives within the district, to explain.

Joe, why did Helix join Cleantech?

Our board asked us to join over the summer and we did. Cleantech’s meetings are a good place for conversations on how to leverage advancing technologies to achieve sustainability in the region. They are the crossroads of the private sector, education, utilities and government, and they have established themselves across the region.

You and Helix Director of Operations Kevin Miller presented recently at Cleantech’s board of directors meeting. Why?

They asked us to present because we are at the front of the curve on water agency sustainability. We can also serve as a technical resource for the other members and provide opportunities for proof-of-concept projects. Since Cleantech members represent a variety of businesses, Helix has an opportunity to share its expertise with a broad cross-section of organizations.

Helix is seen as a regional leader in water. We bring a lot to the table from the water world, because we manage and operate both water treatment and water distribution systems. Engaging with Cleantech also helps fulfill our mission statement – to be a progressive industry leader. This means not just setting the bar but moving it forward in a cost-effective manner.

Helix Water District Energy Use

2017 Energy Consumption kWh – 12.9 M Total Usage

What were the key points of your presentation?

We recognized that there would be a lot of large companies at the meeting and many didn’t know that Helix has been around for 100 years, or that we are the second largest water agency in the region. We wanted to highlight our longevity and proven track record and reinforce that as a government agency, we set standards of excellence in public service and will continue to do so for decades to come.

We explained how this region’s water supply is managed collaboratively: that retail water agencies like Helix are member agencies of the San Diego County Water Authority, which is a member agency of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. And, we discussed our coordinated, multi-agency efforts to shape the regulations that come out of Sacramento.


Helix Water District Electricity Use Down 25%

Energy Consumption kWh

Finally, we talked about our approach to sustainability and the water/energy nexus. Ninety percent of Helix’s electric bill is for the treatment and movement of water.  We outlined how we actively manage our energy use – how we fill our reservoir tanks at night, for example — to reduce our burden on the power grid and to minimize the rates and charges we pay; our installation of a solar panel array at our operations center in El Cajon; and our increasing use of hybrid electric vehicles.

Even though the state of California has mandated that cities reduce their energy use, there is no similar mandate for water agencies. We wanted Cleantech member companies to understand that Helix is proactively pursuing energy efficiency to reduce the cost of water for our customers and are setting the standard for other water agencies to follow.

The Water/Energy Nexus

According to a November 2018 report from the Public Policy Institute of California, about 20 percent of all electricity use in California and 30 percent of the natural gas used in homes and businesses is related to water use. This is the nexus between water and energy.

The PPIC’s diagram below explains the nexus. What may surprise you is that moving billions of gallons of water from Northern California to Southern California accounts for just 10 percent of water’s energy use, and we use four times that much energy heating water in our homes. The takeaway is that conserving water also conserves energy, and that reduces carbon emissions. We have step-by-step instructions on our website to help you get started.

12 water efficient ideas for your front yard

12 water efficient ideas for your front yard

November and December are planting season! Right now is the best time of year to replace thirsty turf and plants with stylish, water efficient plants that will increase your home’s curb appeal and decrease your water bill.

If you’re not sure what to plant, or how to plant, start in the Home and Garden section of Sunset Magazine’s website. Grab a cup of coffee and explore the articles on Garden Basics, Edible Gardening, Landscaping, Green Living and Flowers and Plants. We selected an article for you — to get you started — and to show you the variety of landscapes that use less water than a lawn.

Read 12 Favorite Front-Yard Designs on Sunset’s website

Fall Back on Sunday

Fall Back on Sunday

And, adjust your irrigation settings.

This Sunday, November 4, marks the end of daylight savings time. After you set your clocks back, take a few minutes and also adjust your irrigation timer.

After all, since the days are shorter and the weather is finally cooler, your plants will need much less water. Making seasonal adjustments to your timer not only reduces water waste, but it also helps keep your landscape healthy. Fall is the perfect time to cut back on your watering days and times and helps you save water.

Also, don’t forget to turn off your sprinklers when rain is in the forecast and leave them off for at least 72 hours afterwards.

If you don’t have time to manually adjust your timer, consider upgrading to a weather-based irrigation controller which adjusts watering times automatically based on the changing weather and seasons. These controllers can also automatically delay irrigation before, during and after rain events. Helix customers are eligible for a rebate of up to $200 on weather-based irrigation controllers. Rebates are available at