Gardening Tips

How to Kill a Tree Stump

There are plenty of reasons requiring the removal of a tree from your yard: a tree has died, construction projects, growing too close to your house or other structure, aesthetic reasons. Tree stumps can also be left following a natural disaster or the tree falling. Following the removal of a tree, there’s often an unsightly and potentially dangerous tree stump left. It’s crucial that a remaining stump is removed as quickly as possible to avoid problems. Still, removing a tree stump can sometimes be more complicated than removing the tree itself.

Having a tree stump professionally removed or ground down can be pricey. Home Advisor places the national average of stump removal at three hundred dollars per stump; depending on circumstances, this price is simply not feasible for many homeowners, leaving DIY stump removal as the best option. In this article, we’ll take a look at why tree stumps shouldn’t be ignored and provide you with methods and tips for safe killing and removal of a stump.

Potential Issues Caused by Tree Stumps

Leftover tree stumps are more than just an unsightly thing left in your yard; they can actually lead to a barrage of problems if ignored. If you have a tree stump currently on your property, you’ll want to get rid of it immediately and here’s why:

  • Hazardous – When stumps are left in your yard, they can present a dangerous (and sometimes expensive) liability to children, guests, and pets who can trip and fall over them. Stumps can also present problems with mowing; if lawnmowers hit a tree stump, it can damage the mower or cause injury through debris.
  • Insects – Insects love old tree stumps. Once a tree stump begins decaying, wood rot can invite a whole host of insects. Depending on how close the tree stump is to your home, insects can migrate from the stump to your home and cause damage.
  • New Tree Growth – How frustrating would it be if you cut down a tree and a new one grows in its place? Stumps can actually promote new tree growth in your yard, leading to more necessary tree removal and a potentially more complicated root system.
  • Property Value – Tree stumps in your yard can actually lower the property value of your home due to aesthetics and potential hazards. Your assessed property value is important if you’re selling your home or looking to refinance.

14 Ways to Kill a Tree Stump

So how do you go about killing a tree stump and prepping it for removal? As it turns out, there are quite a few ways. We’ll take a look at the most effective and popular natural, chemical, and machine methods of killing tree stumps.

Chemical Methods

  • Bleach – When using the bleach method, you’ll first want to cut the tree stump down enough to expose the portion that is still alive. Drill holes into the outside of the stump, and then follow this up by painting a layer of bleach on the outside. Allow three weeks for the stump to die before proceeding with removal.
  • Herbicides – Herbicides are explicitly designed to kill plant life and vegetation. To use this method following the purchase of an herbicide, simply cut your tree stump down enough to expose the living portion, drill holes all around the outside and top of the stump, and then apply herbicide according to manufacturer instructions. This method will generally take about four weeks to kill the stump and allow for removal.

Natural Methods

  • Boiling Water – To use this method, you’ll need to boil a large pot of water. Pour boiled water directly onto the tree stump’s roots or through holes drilled into the exterior. Wait for a stump to show visible signs of deterioration before attempting to remove; this may take several weeks.
  • Fire – Fire can be an excellent method for killing a tree stump and doubles as a stump removal method. Begin by drilling holes into the exterior and top of the tree stump, and then paint diesel over the stump’s entirety. When burning the stump, be sure to take proper fire safety precautions.
  • Starvation – This process involves cutting off the tree stump’s ability to get nutrients through its bark. Simply remove all exterior layers of bark from the tree stump, and then make a cut around the stump about two inches wide and one and a half inches deep. The cut may need to be wider (up to eight inches) if the stump is large.
  • Epsom Salt – This method of killing a tree stump can take a while, sometimes up to three months, but it does allow for a more natural process to take place. Drill holes into the tree stump’s top and sides, and then fill with Epsom salt and wrap in plastic wrap. Once the tree shows signs of deterioration, it can be removed.
  • Vinegar – Following drilling holes in the top and bottom of the tree stump, pour in distilled white vinegar; allow the tree to decompose and remove.
  • Rock Salt – This method is similar to using Epsom salt. Use a drill to make holes throughout the top and sides of the tree. Fill all holes with rock salt, wrap in plastic wrap, and wait for the tree to decompose and be ready for removal.
  • Plastic Wrap – Using just plastic wrap to kill your tree stump may take longer than usual, but it is one of the simpler methods. Simply wrap the entirety of the tree stump in plastic wrap and wait for thorough decay before removal. It’s thought that this method works due to starving the stump of nutrients through its bark and by attracting more heat.
  • Anaerobic Composting – Through the anaerobic composting method, you’re essentially creating a natural anti-fungal and anti-bacterial solution to aid in starving the tree of nutrients. Start with a large bucket of non-chlorinated water and mix in a healthy amount of compost. Allow your compost and water mixture to rest for one to two days, and then drill into the stump’s top and sides and pour it into your stump.

Alternative Methods

  • Goats – Utilizing a goat can be an effective method of killing a tree stump due to the goat’s eating habits. Essentially, you’ll need to secure the goat within reach of the tree stump, which will allow the goat to eat any new vegetation that pops up and lead to the tree dying.
  • Copper Nails – Using copper nails may be the most prolonged method out there; it can sometimes take a year or longer to kill a tree stump this way! On the plus side, the copper nail method is relatively easy to do. Simply hammer copper nails all through the top and bottom of the tree stump and wait for the tree stump to succumb to poisoning and be ready for removal.

Removing a Dead Tree Stump

Following the death of your tree stump, you’ll need to remove it. There are a few different routes you can take for stump removal; we’ve listed some of the most popular methods below:

  • Shovel – Following the stump and root system properly decaying, it’s often easy to remove the stump using just a shovel to pry it out. You’ll also most likely need a mattock or saw to cut through remaining tree roots during the process. Be warned, manual removal of a tree stump is pretty labor-intensive.
  • Stump Grinder – Stump grinders are large pieces of machinery that you can rent and transport to your home for use. Essentially, this professional tool will grind what’s left of your tree stump into wood chips. Using a stump grinder can make quick work of stump removal. Still, this method will require an abundance of safety precautions and precision to ensure the job is done safely and correctly. The cost to rent a stump grinder can range from one to two hundred dollars, making it one of the more expensive removal methods.
  • Burning – The technique of burning a dead tree stump is popular, but you’ll need to be sure to use proper fire safety precautions and check your local burning rules and regulations. To burn your stump, simply drill holes into the top and sides of the stump, fill holes with an accelerant, and then set on fire. Once the stump is charred and left smoldering, put out any remaining fire by covering the stump with soil.
  • Professional Removal – Of course, if you don’t want to deal with the actual removal of the stump at all, you can hire a professional company to take care of it. By hiring a tree removal company, however, the job’s price can soar close to three hundred dollars.
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