Pala Environmental Department News California

Xeriscape Your Landscape!

Spring is here, signaling for most people that it’s time to start your gardens.   As California enters its fourth straight year of severe drought, we should all think about landscaping with low water use plants, instead of water-hogs (like grass & tropical plants).

Xeriscape is the name for a type of landscaping done in arid regions, like southern California, that uses little to no water for irrigation.  These types of landscapes also require far less maintenance than most gardens, making them very easy to maintain.  They usually attract all kinds of beautiful wildlife, such as butterflies and hummingbirds, with their bright-colored flowers and wonderful scents.  The reward of installing these types of gardens is being able to sit and relax in them during those long summer evenings, when the breeze moves through the trees and the hummingbirds flicker from plant to plant.

These xeriscape tips will help you plan your low-water garden:

  • Planning & Design: make sure you include plants/trees of varying sizes and textures, as well as rocks or stepping stones to add interest, and mulch the rest. Trees planted on east & west-facing spots can protect your house from the hottest parts of the day (allowing you to use less energy on air conditioning).
  • Best Plants to Use: native plants or low-water use plants from regions with an arid Mediterranean climate like ours will do best in Pala. There are so many different types of plants (not just cactus!) that are different sizes, colors, textures, and heights that you will have no problem filling your garden with beautiful plants. PED has lists of native plants, plants that hummingbirds/butterflies love, plants that stand up to fire really well, and more.
  • Turf/Lawns: we recommend getting rid of as much of your lawn or turf as you can, since lawn and turf grasses require a huge amount of water. Consider replacing it with groundcovers or mulch.
  • Efficient Irrigation: use separate irrigation for turf and the rest of your plants. Turf should use sprinklers, making sure the water only waters the lawn (not the sidewalk). Trees, bushes, flowers, and ground-cover should be irrigated with drip irrigation or bubblers, watering only where the plant actually is.  This reduces your overall water use.
  • Mulch: mulch helps control weeds & keeps moisture in the ground, instead of evaporating, so you can water less. The Pala Transfer Station sells mulch, so you don’t even have to go far to pick some up.
  • Maintenance: maintenance should be easier & cheaper with these types of gardens. Once the plants are in & your drip irrigation system is automated, all you have to do is sit back and enjoy it.

If you’re curious to learn more, or want some help with design questions, please stop into our Pala Environmental Department office at the Tribal Administration Building, or see us at our booth during Cupa Days on May 2.  Happy Gardening!

Pala Environmental Department News California

Protecting Our Oak Trees

With the start of spring and warmer temperatures there will be a noticeable increase in insects and the diseases that they carry. One that is of serious concern is the Gold Spotted Oak Borer (GSOB), which is a flathead borer that causes mortality to oak trees. Experts believe it was introduced into the Descano area of San Diego County by the transport of infested firewood from Southwestern Arizona in 2004. The GSOB mortality of oak trees has since spread to other portions of San Diego County as close as Julian and isolated areas of Idyllwild in Riverside County.


 The Gold Spotted Oak Borer (GSOB) leaves visible evidence on three species of oak trees common in San Diego County. When their larvae create feeding galleries underneath the surface of the bark, GSOB attacks may be recognized by the following evidence:

  • Red or black staining in dime-sized to half foot sections
  • Blistering and oozing on the surface of the tree
  • Crown thinning
  • Twig and branch die-back

Evidence of injury can also include chipped outer bark from woodpeckers feeding on the larvae and small D-Shaped exit holes where the gold spotted beetles pupate and emerge from the tree. Impact varies between three oak species and can consist of gray or brown coloring in the crown of the tree and thinning of the foliage.


Currently the Pesticide Program is using these monitoring tools to detect GSOB:

  • Putting up purple monitoring traps provided by United States Department of Forestry on oak trees in selected areas during the flight season from May through September to detect for GSOB.
  • Physical checking for symptoms of GSOB, implementation of an oak tree inventory, and numbering system.
  • Development of an aerial imagery oak tree map.

These are tips for how you can help prevent GSOB from being introduced into the community:

  • Check oak trees on your private property for symptoms of GSOB.
  • When you get firewood ensure that you check it and that it has been cured for at least 2 years.
  • Do not transport firewood from an infested area to an un-infested area.


If  you have any questions or want more information contact Pala Environmental Department Pesticide Technician Jesse Castro at (760) 891-3549.

Pala Environmental Department News California

Spring is Allergy Season!

Spring brings a variety of health concerns, including allergic reactions to airborne pollen and asthma.   Each spring, tiny particles known as pollen are released from trees, grasses, and weeds.  Pollen is transported by wind and when we breathe them in they can trigger an allergic reaction known as Pollen Allergy or Hay Fever.  During an allergic reaction you may feel a number of uncomfortable symptoms such as sneezing; nasal congestion; coughing; itchy and watery eyes; runny nose; itchy throat; itchy skin; hives; fatigue; irritability; and allergic shiners (dark rings under the eyes caused from restricted blood flow near the sinuses).

You can’t avoid the outside world but there are ways to minimize pollen exposure.  The key to preventing symptoms is knowing when the pollen count is high and avoiding outside exposure as much as possible.  Pollen counts tend to be highest early in the morning on warm, breezy days so scheduling your errands or family activities for later in the day can help lessen the exposure.  Pets can bring pollen indoors on their fur, so if you have a pet that comes in and out of the house make sure to wipe off its fur before it comes back in.  Also, do not hang your clothes out to dry outdoors during high pollen days. You will track pollen indoors.

Thankfully, not everyone is allergic to pollen. But if you are one of the unfortunate ones, here are a few resources that can help you minimize exposure on high pollen days:

The website provides allergy forecasts, educational material, weather forecasts,  and has a number of tools and downloads you can take advantage of to stay aware of the allergy  conditions in your local area.

Like the site, provides asthma forecasts, educational material, weather forecasts, and has an asthma alert system you can sign up for to be notified regarding your local asthma and air quality index.

Call us if you want more information about pollen allergies! 760-891-3510


Pala Environmental Department News California

Facing the Drought Emergency

California is facing one of the worst drought seasons in recorded history, and with climate change and all of our thirsty lawns, it is only going to get worse. On January 17th, 2014, Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought state of emergency for the entire state, and requested that everyone voluntarily reduce their water consumption by 20 percent. Last year was the driest year ever recorded for the San Diego area, and 2014 is looking to follow this record, in spite of our recent rain storm.

Here in Pala, we are lucky enough to get our drinking water from a large aquifer (groundwater) underneath our feet, instead of importing the water from northern California or the Colorado River. However, our aquifer is reliant on water flowing in the San Luis Rey River and storm water runoff to replenish this water source. This means that Pala has a cleaner water source, and we are independent from some of the cut-backs that imported water sources will face. It also means that we are very susceptible to future impacts from climate change, as well as over-pumping of that groundwater from both on and off reservation sources.

The Pala Tribe is trying to do their part to conserve this vital resource, including recycling our treated wastewater and allowing it to replenish our groundwater source and removing some of the water-heavy grass lawns and planting beautiful native, low-water use gardens in tribal areas (ie: Pala Administration, Blacktooth House, Calac Adobe). The Pala Environmental Department is working on developing a native, low-water use garden next to the Pala Transfer Station, which will be open to the community and serve as an example of the types of plants that would be appropriate to plant in our arid region.

Here are some water conservation tips that you can practice at home:

  • Turn off the water while you are brushing your teeth
  • Make sure you have a full dishwasher/laundry load before running it
  • Make sure all of your appliances have the EPA Water Sense Label (low-water use)
  • Fix all of your leaky faucets
  • Don’t hose off your sidewalks & driveways – use a broom instead
  • Only water your lawn early in the morning, and let it run for shorter intervals
  • Use drip-irrigation, or other water efficient irrigation
  • Never let water run-off of your lawn/garden….if it does, you are overwatering your plants
  • Remove grass (uses a TON of water) & plant native, low-water use plants
  • If you do want grass, plant: Buffalo grass, Hybrid bermuda grass, Zoysia grass
  • Use mulch – this helps your garden retain water, so you can water less
  • Install a rain barrel to help water your plants

Contact the Pala Environmental Department if you would like to know more about water conservation.