Sometimes the most mundane details are overlooked when you’re getting ready for a big project. Consider it the opposite of the old saw: can’t see the forest for the trees. Since you undoubtedly have the big picture in mind, let’s talk about some details now, so you don’t miss any pesky trees.
Speaking of trees, if you have identified any trees as sources of your leaks, it may be best to remove them. Tree removal is a topic way beyond the scope of this guide, but it’s usually well worth the money to hire a professional service to accomplish this. You don’t want branches or even the tree itself to somehow end up in your pond or on top of some other valuable yard feature. Then there’s the issue of sawdust, leaves, and other debris from the tree-cutting process. It would be a shame to have all that end up in your pristine pond, so either plan to cover the pond completely or talk with your tree removal company about protecting the area.
Accessing the Site
Access is another critical consideration as you plan how to complete your project. Depending on the size and weight of your liner, you may need to bring a vehicle right up to the pond’s edge. Does your site allow for vehicle access? Will you need to remove fencing or gates? Will you need to protect delicate landscaping or bypass vulnerable statuary? Be sure to allow for maneuvering, too. If there’s no room for a truck, you’ll need to be creative with your solutions. If a dolly is more practical, how do you ensure it won’t sink into soft soil as you move? Cardboard, a length of old carpet, even scraps of old linoleum laid over soft ground may help you spread out the weight enough to drive a loaded dolly to your pond site.
More Practical Considerations
You’ll also want to plan for what to do with both the water you remove and the old liner. It’s probably more of a concern for large ponds, but you don’t want to flood your yard (and the neighbor’s) and then find yourself faced with a massive, crumbling, wet mess that you must squeeze into the back of the family SUV for transport to the local dump. Fortunately, we have some ideas for you!
If space is tight, take a moment to plan where you’ll keep your pond equipment or family pets while you’re working on the pond. An accidental trip and fall can damage your liner, pond equipment, or worse, your pet and even yourself. Survey your yard and consider all the places things will be happening with an eye to safety and potential conflicts.
When you’re getting ready to replace your liner, you’ll need to clear out your pond entirely and give yourself plenty of room to work, including removing all border plants in pots or other containers. If you’ve got in-ground plantings in the vicinity, plan your work to avoid trampling them. At this point, drain about half the water in your pond and collect it in some large buckets, or even better, a few 20 or 40-gallon plastic stock tanks (available through online outlets like Amazon or at your local hardware or farm store). Unless you’re having water quality issues, this is the ideal place to keep your plants and fish until renovations are complete. Be sure to provide your fish with shade and plenty of aeration during this time away from home, but it’s probably best not to feed them, even if the project takes a couple of days. Never fear - they won’t starve!
After all the live residents are removed, it’s time to turn off and remove the pond equipment - aerators, pumps, filters, fountain or waterfall setups, and decorative features, including those river rocks you’ve placed lovingly along the shelves and bottom of your pond. Everything must go! Following this, go ahead and pump out the remaining water. It’s your choice whether to save it at this point, but we have a suggestion for that too!
You’re probably using a biofilter that has an established colony of beneficial bacteria. That’s a valuable resource, so transfer it right away to one of your buckets or stock tanks. You’ll want the bacteria in your filter to survive this process, which will significantly simplify repopulating your pond. If your filter is allowed to dry out or you scrub it out (gasp!) intending to start fresh, getting your water chemistry stable again is going to be more challenging. In the interim, your biofilter should be happy in an environment similar to your fish: adequate water, shade, and aeration.
A Light Cleaning
While you’re waiting to start on the pond, take advantage of the situation and go ahead and clean the equipment that goes into it. Don’t over-clean, but it’s an excellent opportunity to lightly scrub off any unsightly algae and perform regular maintenance chores. Once the gear is underwater again, these types of maintenance activities present some level of risk of minor damage to your pond, so you might as well take care of it now.
When you’re pumping out the last bit of water from your leaky pond, try to capture at least the last few gallons. It may be full of mulm or concentrated algae, but that stuff is chock full of vitamins! You can dump some on your mulch pile or pour it directly in your flower garden - it’s like a dose of superfood for your plants! One owner poured some on a young maple tree that appeared healthy but slow-growing, and the tree nearly doubled its height the following year. Of course, if you have used any chemicals in your pond, especially algae killers, skip this step.