Wilton letter: In lawn care, the health of groundwater is job one

A bee photographed by Brooks Garis at his Wilton home during the summer of 2020.

A bee photographed by Brooks Garis at his Wilton home during the summer of 2020.

Contributed photo / Brooks Garis

To the Editors:

Here’s a lawn story. A neighbor friend of ours has her regular yard crew showing up every week. This summer her pond, as usual, looked like a putting green and we again brought up the fertilizer issue: fertilize lawn, fertilize pond. She said she has to fertilize. We said, you don’t. She said, that’s what the lawn people said and I leave it to the experts.

Thankfully, her pond is downstream from ours because a few weeks later an error in some applied chemical burned her entire yard to a crisp. It brought an end to everything that crept or flew. Her pond, which, till then, was just choked with scum suddenly went belly up. Also, belly up, went all her pond’s long-suffering residents. Turtles and frogs that had managed to endure many a summer of green sludge, unanimously gave up the ghost and floated to the surface. It was a tragic mess and a massively costly repair with an industrial aerator gasping away 24/7, trying to breathe life back into broken water.

Here’s a reflection on yard crews as experts. These days it’s hard to find real experts among yard companies, even the ones with on-line ads and long-term contracts. At the top of every yard professional’s care list has to be water care. If it’s not at the top of the list, then we’re missing real expertness in yard management and important things die. Poisoning our water is the chronic absurdity of rural expertness. Nobody’s lawn should be killing ponds, but that’s exactly what lawns in Wilton do.

Our lawn has never had an ounce of fertilizer and our pond, among just a few others in Wilton, is unique in never having had algae. We’re not geniuses, but for us it was a stroke of luck that when we first saw our home in 1993, a great blue hereon was just then rising gracefully off the pond. It is also our great good fortune that the seller, an aqua-culturally hip Raytheon engineer, warned us: no lawn fertilizer ever, or you’ll lose your pond.

Yup, we have dandelions. The spring bees need that first flower of the year. Also, we seed our lawn with clover, because clover makes a knitting of tight roots that out-compete most weeds. Bees and bunnies and all wing-ed things use our imperfect lawn, and the white clover flowers that always pop back up after a mowing add old-world charm.

If you are in the fertilizer business, which is a big business in America, you’re talking nature but you’re selling fertilizer. After years of leaving it to the experts, our lawns may be perfect, but ponds in Wilton are more dead than alive.

Pruning, edging, mulching, transplanting and soil care, that’s the expert help we need. And of course, mowing.

If we will quit the fetish of lawns in Wilton, we will restore health to our ground water and end the green death of our ponds. We will also bring back the things of the earth, things that quack and creep and fly and swim.

Our bees and our birds will all thank us.

Brooks Garis