Money Saving Tips

One the biggest challenges of replacing grass lawns with beautiful, water-efficient landscapes are related to TIME and MONEY.

Because we want your project to be successful, we have designed this website with the goals of sharing TIME-saving and COST-saving tips and strategies with you.


Determining a project’s budget before work begins is important.  To find important budget-related topics, click here .

WaterSmart Turf Replacement Program Incentive!

Here’s the #1 tip:  Don’t forget to apply for your incentive payment.  If successful, you’ll receive up to $1.50 for each square foot of lawn removed, up to $3,000 for residential sites or up to $9,000 for commercial, industrial, or institutional sites.  For more information, click here .

Financing Available for Water Efficiency Projects through the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Program

PACE program financing allows property owners to fund qualified water efficiency projects with little or no up-front costs. Residential, commercial and municipal properties located within participating cities or unincorporated areas of San Diego County may be able to finance up to 100% of their project and pay it back over time through their existing property tax bill as a voluntary property tax assessment. The PACE program may require participating contractors to perform the work. For more information, please visit your city’s website to determine if your city participates in the program.  If you live in an unincorporated area of San Diego County, please visit the County of San Diego’s PACE website.

Designing Your Landscape

Free landscape designs

Save time and money by choosing one of our FREE landscape designs, designs you can download and easily customize to create your own unique garden, click here .

Free landscape classes

For free online instruction to learn how to design your own landscape that you can use in your own yard, click here.

KISS:  Keep it simple, silly

Save time and money by keeping your design simple.  A simple design is less time-consuming to create and the total cost of materials and labor will probably be less.  You can add more complex elements to the landscape in the future, as time and money allow.

Minimize the Addition of Hardscape (Pavers, Brick, etc.)

Think twice about adding a lot of hardscape into your design.  These materials tend to cost a lot of money and, unless you are doing the work yourself, can be expensive to install.  That being said, some hardscape additions, such as pathways made of brick or flagstone that had been placed on a bed of sand, are fairly simple to install yet look quite beautiful.

Buying Plants

Buy wholesale

Buy wholesale.  Wholesale nurseries often sell plants for 40% or more off retail prices.  Although these nurseries are about 40 minutes to an hour away, the savings can be significant.  Click on these names to get more information on the nurseries and their locations:  Miramar Wholesale Nurseries, Tree of Life Nursery, Theodore Payne Foundation, Las Pilitas Nursery; and for succulents, try Waterwise Botanicals.

Buy less mature plants

To save money, buy plants in 1-gallon containers rather than 5-gallon.  Younger plants will cost less than 50% of their more mature cousins; but many of them will fill out very nicely in 12 months or less.

Please keep in mind that soon after water-efficient landscapes are installed, the landscapes may look a little scrawny; but oftentimes the same settings show beautiful and lush landscapes with large flowering shrubs and other plants one year later after they mature.

Irrigation System

Evaluate your existing irrigation system and determine if it can be maintained in its current condition or if you need to upgrade the system.  Some irrigation systems can be upgraded by simply changing nozzles, converting to drip emitters, or adding a smart controller, while others may need to be completely redesigned. 

Check out our “How To ” tab for more information on irrigating your new landscape.

Kill the Lawn Yourself

Some projects involve the use of chemicals to kill the existing lawn.  To do a good job of killing the lawn with chemicals, someone needs to spray it once, then each week for the next three to five weeks keep watering the lawn and spray any new shoots that come up.

The problem with paying someone to do this work is it will cost the contractors a lot of money to drive to your property each week – even if he or she is there for only a few minutes.  So what often happens is the contractor will not take the time needed to completely kill the grass.

Although you need to be very careful and to read and understand the instructions, the good news is killing the lawn with chemicals is not very physically demanding work, so many homeowners can save the money and the headache of paying someone else to do the job.

Digging Up the Dead Grass

This is NOT a money-saving tip, but an important one just the same:  Pay someone to dig up the dead grass; removing 2 to 10 inches of soil along with the dead grass is back-breaking work. 

If Paying for Labor – You May Save by Hiring the Neighborhood Gardener

If you need to hire someone, consider your neighborhood gardener.  You might have to tell them exactly what you want done, but the gardener probably knows how to do most of the work, such as digging up the grass, hauling it away, and installing the new plants.  You avoid a time-consuming search to find a contractor, the quality of their work is already known, they have a reason to do a good job (their long-term relationship with the neighborhood), and they probably work very hard for a reasonable fee.