Our Garden Pond Rescue and Restoration

I hope your summer is going well so far. It’s been pretty hot here, and my hubby, John, and I have been working on quite the huge and challenging project…. our garden pond rescue.

Now right off the bat I have to say that we only have ourselves to blame for this project being such a huge one.

You know how sometimes life gets busy and some things just fall by the wayside? Well that was definitely what happened here.

We should have done this a few years ago, but it kept getting put off and put off… and because of that the project became larger and larger as the jungle grew bigger and bigger and deeper and deeper.

Here are some pics of the before so you can see what I mean.

garden pond rescue restoration before pic

This is supposed to be our 10′ x 20′ pond. Yikes!

It doesn’t look so horrendous and overwhelming from a distance.


garden pond rescue restoration before pic close up 1

But when you get up close it looks like this.

I had already cut down the grasses on this end before taking these before shots so it was even worse.

You can walk on what looks like land, but that’s actually a huge mass of various plant roots that have become one large land mass.


garden pond rescue restoration before pic close up 2

And this is the deepest area of the pond. It’s mostly filled with overgrown water lilies, water soldiers (the pointy thingies), one other long armed leafy plant that we can’t remember the name of, and some duckweed.

It’s hard to believe that there’s actually a little water in there somewhere.

There’s not much mind you, but it’s there.


garden pond rescue restoration before pic close up 3

And this.

When our pond and waterfall were installed about 11 years ago the guys who did it put some grasses and plants right into the water among the rocks.

Little did we know what it would lead to.

When a pond gets overgrown like this the very worst part is beneath the surface.

I’m talking 10-18 inches of mixed roots from different plants tightly intertwined among rocks of all different sizes. I can’t even tell you how many rocks we pulled out of the root masses as we were making our way through this mess.

Basically the only thing to do to get the pond back was to gut everything and start from scratch. So that’s what we set out to do.


garden pond rescue restoration tools

We used 2 small hand held prospecting picks to cut through the root masses from the top down, and hand held garden pruners for cutting the intertwined roots to the get rocks out.

These smaller picks let us safely make our way a bit at a time. This was a tedious and time consuming job, but preserving the pond liner was more important than hacking our way through with a large pick that could have caused some damage.


garden pond rescue restoration 5

We started by pulling everything out of the center area, and I do mean everything.  All that remained was the duckweed, some of which will be scooped out later.

This clean out was not just about what was floating on the surface, but also reaching down into the muddy depths and pulling as many roots out of the rocks as we could. Needless to say we wore long plastic gloves.


garden pond rescue restoration 6

Then we picked, pruned, and pulled our way through the root mass on the one side.


garden pond rescue restoration 7

We used the stones that we pulled out of the roots to cover the pond liner to keep it from getting too much sun exposure.


garden pond rescue restoration 9

We cleaned up the finished end by completely covering the liner.

Can you believe we pulled all those rocks one at a time out of the root masses?


garden pond rescue restoration 96

This is just half of what came out of that end of the pond, and that’s a 9′ x 12′ tarp.

From the whole pond we took 4 large pick up truck loads to the burn pile at the dump.


garden pond rescue restoration 8

Once the one end of the pond was done, we cut down the grasses and irises on the other end… the deeper end of the pond.


garden pond rescue restoration 91

And we started picking away again… bit by bit.


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This close up gives you an idea of how deep the root mass was.


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This is when a 4 day heat wave hit with temps of 40 degrees celcius or more with the humidity, that’s 104 degrees Fahrenheit and higher.

Needless to say it was suddenly much slower going, and on these days we only worked during the early morning and late evening.


garden pond rescue restoration 94

We kept the areas where the liner was exposed covered during the very hot daytime hours when we weren’t working on it.


garden pond rescue restoration 95

Then we finally finished. Yay!


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We replaced all the rocks on that end and slowly added water to the pond using our garden hose.

We’re on a well so we added water in intervals. We didn’t want to use such large amounts of water in too short a time span. Once we had it at this depth we let it sit for a few days so the pond could settle and to let bits and pieces come to the surface for scooping.


garden pond rescue restoration 1

Here’s the main before again. Yikes!

When we started this project it felt very overwhelming, and looking at this picture now that we’re done I can totally see why.

The only way we could get through this project was by breaking it down and working on one part at a time.

There’s no way we could have afforded to hire someone to do it for us because of all the back-aching hours involved. I worked about 13 hours by myself on my Fridays off work, and the two of us worked on it for about 30 hours over a week. Landscaping labor is very expensive so we had to do it ourselves… or say goodbye to our pond for good.

We certainly weren’t prepared to do that and when we finally finished we were overjoyed and exhausted at the same time, and we both said never never never again. 

From now on everything that goes in the pond will be in pots, except for floating plants that can be easily removed.


garden pond rescue restoration after

And here’s the after. So. Much. Better.

Thankfully we had some help filling the pond from Mother Nature.

So far we’ve added 12 water hyacinths and 3 water lilies. We need a few more plants, but we’re so happy to be starting fresh. 


Here are a few more befores and afters.


garden pond rescue restoration 2

garden pond rescue restoration after 2

The wee green stuff is some kind of duckweed, and we’re sure it sneaked it’s way into our pond on some plants that we bought a few years ago. I don’t mind it because it’s very easy to scoop out and the waterfall pushes it to the ends of the pond so it’s not floating all over. To me that looks too messy.


garden pond rescue restoration 3

garden pond rescue restoration after 3

It’s so nice to see and hear the waterfall actually hitting water again.


garden pond rescue restoration 4

garden pond rescue restoration after 4

We really weren’t sure what state the pond liner would be in under all the stuff we removed, but we were so happy that we only found two holes on one side of the pond where grass roots had pushed their way through into the garden.  We decided to cut the roots at the holes and we left them there because the rubber liner was so tight against them.

We were hoping this would work and the pond wouldn’t leak, and so far so good. If we ever need to repair them we know they’re beneath the rocks just to the right of the hose.


garden pond rescue restoration after 6

We still have some fine tuning to do like hiding the pump cord and the hose,  but we’re super excited to have our pond back and waterfall back.


garden pond rescue restoration after 7

For us there’s nothing better after a busy day at work than to be sitting on the back deck enjoying the peaceful sound of the waterfall. When John and I call each other during the day we always say meet you by the pond.

Now when look at our pond, finally rescued from its jungled masses, we couldn’t be happier to have restored it back to the beauty that it once was. This was most definitely one of the hardest projects we’ve ever done, but we can now sit back and proudly say that we did it all ourselves… and we saved a huge chunk of change to boot.

And we have some very happy froggies. 🙂

So the next time you have a huge project that you’ve been putting off because it seems overwhelming, break it down and do it one step at a time. The reward is so worth it.

Thanks so much for reading, and until next time…

keep on keepin’ on!



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  1. What a beautiful feature to have in your yard, Tuula! Think I have a case of pond envy now;) So much work, but so satisfying now that it’s done! Thanks for showing us the whole process!

    1. Thanks so much Lora! Now we can enjoy it for the rest of the summer. We feel very lucky.

  2. Lovely and such an accomplishment! Good for you.

  3. Mary Boger says:

    How wonderful! You and John did an amazing job on this restoration. I’ll bet the wildlife appreciate it too. Be sure and
    sit a bit and enjoy this. In my next life I’m going to have a pond, or in this life should I win the lotto! Lol. It’s such a good feeling to accomplish such a monumental task. Enjoy, enjoy!

    1. Thanks Mary! I have to say the frogs and the birds are very happy to have the pond back too.

  4. LINDA N. SCHRADER says:

    Great job…well done. Looks beautiful. I wouldn’t have had the patience to take on that job. Besides…there just might be a snake close by. I’d have been 5 miles down the road at the first sight of one!!! Hope you had the help of your husband through this process, that was a lot of hauling rock & getting rid of brush & plants. Not an easy job, esp. in the summer. As I get older, I’m doing less in my yard & other outside things such as things in the trees. Everything you put out you have to take down & put away in the fall. When it gets so hot, I start thinking about SNOW.
    You should be proud of yourself…….

    1. Thanks Linda! Thankfully no snakes, just froggies. Oh yes, John was right there doing this project with me. It was definitely not a one person job. We’re so happy to have it done, and hopefully we never have to do it again.

  5. Wow, great transformation! It looks so peaceful to stand or sit by and just listen. We had a jungle in the back of our yard that I would not touch because of poison ivy. We finally cleared it and it is now an outdoor man cave for my husband. I am working on my headboard fence to separate it from the rest of the yard. Lots of painting!

    1. Thanks AnnMarie! It just been a little while and we’ve already gotten so much enjoyment out of having the pond and waterfall back. There’s just somethign about water that’s so calming. Love the idea of a headboard fence!

  6. Wow, that looks and sounds like a LOT of work but the end result is so beautiful! Glad you are done!


    1. Thanks Tania! Even though we knew it was a big job it was even bigger than we thought. We’ve never been so glad to have a project done. But we’ve never had this much satisfaction from a job either, so it was so worth it.

  7. It’s a “labor” of love, isn’t it! i’ve been there, no fun at all. You two I know were exhausted. I’ve fought those roots too, LOL. Your pond looks so inviting. The sound of the waterfall is so pleasant. I was surprised at how much sound it drowns out. When mine is turned off I can hear all the kids in the neighborhood and neighbors in the pool rukusing. What an old grump I am! Just keep that water flowing!

    I don’t want to burst your bubble ~ but the Iris, and Palm were in containers. They split the containers and crawled right out the cracks and even over the tops!! That’s when I ripped everything out just like you. ALL the Water Iris, Umbrella Palm, Water Lettuce, and Hyacinth.

    The only thing I put back was a little yellow Mexican Water Lily. It lives through our winter and has covered our pond (guess I shouldn’t call it little anymore)….making it hard to see the koi. It has a mass of tangled roots along the bottom where it grows. How do I keep up with it’s growth? I sell them on Etsy!

    I worry about our liner too. It’s 25 yrs. old Has had the neighbors Rottweilers in it when they broke down the fence ~ couldn’t get them out, they had us trapped in the house!

    Then my oldest got a Doberman. Brought it over for a visit and thought the waterfall was her own personnel waterslide!

    Thank goodness our 3 dogs are only interested in it being their water dish 😉
    Love watching all the birds it draws ~ for drinks and baths. All the other garden life it brings also.

    Glad your big chore is done so you and hubby can now enjoy your beautiful pond. Once you have one, it’s hard not to.

    Great post as always!

  8. Whew! That WAS a big job! You two need to pat yourselves on the back for a job well done. It’s beautiful! Dona

  9. Cristine Meixner says:

    Kudos for a job well done! What USDA zone do you live in?

  10. Karolyn Love says:

    What a project!! So much hard work, but what a beautiful result!!! It truly is so hard to get motivated to tackle something as large as this was, but your plugging away saved you so much money and the self satisfaction has to be a wonderful feeling…. kudos to you and John on such hard work that you can enjoy every day!!!

    1. Thanks Karolyn! I totally agree on the motivation thing, but it helped so much to break it down into parts… and I really tried not to even think of the whole thing when we were starting. I can’t even tell you how glad we are to have the pond and waterfall back. So worth all that work.