How to Kill a Tree Stump

Last Updated on January 18, 2023 by Grow with Bovees

Trees are the backbone of the environment. They provide food, shelter, shade and even act as windbreakers during the harsh winters. So, you would naturally like to keep as many trees around you as you can. But even trees aren’t eternal.

Trees can suffer from internal decay, get some diseases that can be harmful to the foliage around them or even grow or lean in a way that might be dangerous in harsh winds. This makes cutting down the trees unavoidable. Whether for commercial or non-commercial reasons, now that the trees have been cut down, it is time to remove the tree stumps as well.

Removing a tree stump is a tedious task. The older and larger the tree is, the tougher it is to uproot the stump. The roots can be holding onto the soil so tightly that almost nothing can separate them. With the right tools and techniques, you can still make this process slightly easier. Here are some techniques to kill or remove a tree stump.

Getting rid of or cutting down a tree is also a great way to make room for more natural lighting in your garden. Surrounding plants will appreciate this, and it will give way to new growth of trees.

Removing tree stumps is a tedious task. As the tree grows older and larger, it becomes tougher to uproot the stump. The roots can hold onto the soil so tightly that almost nothing can separate them. With the right tools and techniques, you can take extra steps to make this process slightly easier.

Here are some approaches/techniques and home remedies for how to kill a tree stump.

How To Kill A Tree Stump Using Physical Removal Methods

If you have the correct equipment and resources, physically removing tree stumps is not a bad idea. They are much faster than using home remedy techniques, but they do take a bit more effort, money and tools.

Here are some effective techniques to physically remove a tree stump.

Removing Tree Stumps with a Tractor

If you own or can rent a heavy-duty tool such as a tractor, you’re in luck. This is quite a labor-intensive approach but probably one of the more convenient ways to uproot a stubborn tree stump. Using the right attachment, should enable you to do this within minutes.

Using a backhoe attachment is useful for digging, loading and trenching. It can be a powerful piece of equipment to uproot and ensure complete removal of a tree stump. Do keep in mind that the larger roots might be a lot deeper than you think, so you need to first dig up the soil around the tree for a while to loosen the tree roots from the soil before going on with this project.

Also, older trees will be a lot stronger with a dense root ball. So you might have to pull much harder. Once the stump is successfully uprooted, use the same attachment to load up some soil and fill the hole left behind.

The Tree Stump Grinder Step

A stump grinder, as the name suggests, is a type of tool specifically designed to remove tree stumps. It is the fastest solution. Either rent a stump grinder and do it yourself or hire someone to help you.

The stump grinder is handled almost like a lawnmower. Just place it on the stump and turn it on. Move it around so that it grinds the stump layer by layer, until you reach ground level.

The stump grinder throws out the wood chips towards the back, so be sure to wear protective gear such as eye and ear protection while operating it, to prevent wood fibers from getting into your eyes and ears.

Use it with caution, as it can be quite a dangerous tool.

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Using The Copper Nail Method

The use of copper nails is quite an effective technique to use when wanting to kill a tree stump, and it does not involve harmful chemicals which could harm the rest of your yard.

Hammer some copper nails about 1-1.5 inches apart into the base of the tree stump in a circumferential pattern. Keep the copper nails in the trunk for as long as possible.

This method works its magic by fooling the trunk into drawing nutrients from the copper nails rather than the soil. This causes it to die due to lack of nutrients, eventually decomposing.

If you want to safely remove the copper nails, use a nail puller.

How To Kill A Tree Stump With Kerosene?

Burning a tree stump is a surefire way to eradicate it. The burning process only works for dead stumps though. A damp tree stump won’t burn.

Once you have a dead and dry tree stump, the next step is to make horizontal drill holes and fill each hole with kerosene — or any flammable liquid. Also, pour it over the exposed root structure of the dry tree stump. Let that sit for some weeks. A good soak and letting the liquid penetrate deep, is important for a steady burn.

Allow the kerosene to seep through the stump and the roots, then add a few logs and light a fire. Add wood until the stump burns until you are left with only ashes. Add soil to the top every few months and soon the ashes will get absorbed into the soil.

Before you try this, be aware of any fire regulations in your area. Most places, especially residential communities, might forbid large fires. Watch the fire the entire time to ensure that the fire doesn’t spread.

Remove any flammable items from the surroundings of the stump before starting the burning process. This includes leaves, twigs and lumber. Keep a hose reel cart or sand close by as a precaution and never leave the fire unattended.

How To Kill A Tree Stump Naturally Using Home Remedies

Continue on to learn about tree stump removal methods that are less physical than the above-mentioned processes. There are also more inexpensive techniques using basic hand tools and natural solutions to kill tree stumps.

Use A Tarp Or Plastic Bag

This is most probably the easiest and most natural, additive-free approach to kill a tree stamp — wrapping it in darkness.

If you prevent sunlight from reaching the stump, it will die and the decomposition process will speed up, starting after about 2-3 months.

Start by cutting the excess stump using a hatchet, handsaw, or chainsaw. Try to cut it quite close to the roots of the stump so that the horizontal stump surface is close to ground level. Then wrap the entire fresh cut stump in a black trash bag.

Secure the black plastic bag by placing bricks or large rocks on top of it, weighing it down.

If you are dealing with small or medium-sized trunks, a metal bucket or dark colored bucket can be used to cover up the tree stump. It should work just as well.

Unlike the physical removal of stumps, this method takes almost no effort. It does, however, take longer than other methods.

Using Boiling Water

In order to execute this remedy, all you need is boiling water. Start by exposing the root system of the plant.

Continue by using a drilling technique to make several 1/2-1 inch holes into the top of the stump as well as into the roots. These inches deep holes will help the hot water to properly seep into the root structure, killing the roots by scolding them with heat.

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Continue with the next step and pour scalding water over the exposed tree roots as well. Heat coming into contact with the roots  will cause the roots to go into shock, eventually killing them due to the extensive damage caused.

The natural decomposition process will start once the tree has no more life.

How to Kill a Tree Stump with Goats

Goats are, in fact, extremely efficient tree stump killers. They enjoy chewing on leaves, bushes and trees and will munch on any foliage they find.Tree stumps that aren’t dying or decaying, new shoots tend grow off the stump every couple of weeks. Goats that are close by will start eating these shoots. They will even eat the bark. If this happens multiple times for a few months, the stump eventually gives up creating and just dies. With this, a natural rotting process starts.

Killing Tree Stumps with Bleach (Does It Work?)

Bleach is a great chemical stump killer. It has to be used on freshly cut or live tree stumps to work effectively. Before going about the application of the bleach method, first slice the stump using a chainsaw such that it doesn’t stand too high from the ground.

The next step is to use a power drill to make a few holes on the stump, at least 10 inches deep and 1-2 inches away from each other. Fill these holes with bleach and let them sit for a few weeks.

In a few weeks, the stump should be dead, and the decomposition process should start.

How to Kill A Tree Stump With The Epsom Salt Method

You can use Epsom salt — which is an organic mineral compound — instead of bleach to kill a stubborn stump and to kill tree roots. This common DIY method works by accelerating the decomposition of the stump. The process will take up to 12 months, which is a lot faster than natural decay time, which usually takes anything between 3-7 years. It is, however, not as effective as a chemical stump killer.

Magnesium and sulfur are found in Epsom salts. Magnesium sulfate is poisonous to plants when applied in large quantities. This Epsom salt works by drawing moisture from the stump, causing it to eventually die.

So, drill holes using a drill bit as before — they should be about 1 inch wide — and pour the Epsom salt into the drilled holes and to the top of the stump. Continue by trickling some water over the Epsom salt and then cover it all with some tarp. The tarp will keep the salt solution from any form of moisture.

If you’re dealing with large stumps that take longer to die, repeat this process every 3 weeks.

Using Epsom salt is a safe way to kill a stump. It is also inexpensive.

Epsom salt also improves the quality of the soil.

You will know if you have successfully executed this process if the stump starts dying within 2-3 weeks. Complete decay should be reached in about one year or so.

How To Kill A Tree Stump With The Rock Salt Method

Just like Epsom salts, rock salt/sodium chloride too, can be used to kill a tree stump. Killing tree stumps with rock salt is a great and natural approach.

All you need to do is to drill holes and pack them with rock salt. Also, cover the top of the stump completely with a thick layer of salt granules. Then cover the stump with mulch and soil and pour water over the mulch such that the salt crystals get dissolved. This process will help the roots to absorb the rock salt solution.

Add rock salt to the soil around the stump as well, letting it seep into the soil.

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It is important to soak the stump with water every couple of days. Constantly moist wood promotes absorption and the development of fungal growth, which in turn causes stump rot and speeds up the stumps’ decaying process.

Adding a rich potassium nitrate fertilizer will also promote the further growth of fungi.

The absorption of salt by the stump and the roots,  can cause decay, leading to the death of the stump. The mulch helps by adding more bacteria to the stump, which can speed up the decay process.

The salt seeping into the soil, may be absorbed by nearby plants and trees. So be aware of using this method if you have plants around the stump that you don’t wish to kill.

Anaerobic Compost Tea Solutions

Anaerobic compost tea is commonly used in farming. It kills fungi and bacteria in the soil.

When used on a tree stump, it should get rid of the good fungi and bacteria present in the wood, thus starving the tree. This method is most effective on freshly cut trees that aren’t already dying.

To make anaerobic compost tea, just put some compost in a bucket of unchlorinated water and let it sit for 1-2 days. Once done, just pour it on the fresh cut tree stump and any exposed roots If you don’t have dechlorinated water, you can take a bucket of chlorinated water and let it sit uncovered for about a day before adding the compost.

This process is not often used to kill a tree stump, but if you have some anaerobic tea lying around, it’s worth a try.

Stump-Killing Herbicide

Herbicides that are efficient at killing fresh tree stumps include Trichlophyr and Glyphosate. They come in a convenient squirt bottle and are relatively affordable.

For the best result, use herbicides straight after cutting the tree, as the top layer of the stump will still have live wood.

These herbicides are safe to use even if you have nearby plants, as they don’t go through the soil. Use this method during dry seasons, as water, caused by rain, for example, can wash the herbicide away.

When Should You Kill A Tree Stump & Tree Roots?

Chopping down a tree isn’t an easy decision. It’s a big investment of time, energy, and money, and even an experienced tree cutter knows it’s a process that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

That said, there are circumstances where chopping down a tree is the right thing to do, but before you start swinging an axe, you need to know what those circumstances are.

To Conclude

There you have it, all you need to know about how to kill a tree stump.

Tree stumps can be tough to get rid of, and it can be quite a difficult DIY project. But keeping them around isn’t feasible either.

Especially if they are decaying, you should remove them as soon as possible — whether it be by using a natural method or making use of toxic chemicals. It also creates space to plant new trees on the spot.

There are several ways to kill a tree or vine stump, and even more, to uproot or remove it. The above-mentioned methods are just a few ways to kill and remove a stump successfully.

Other chemical tree stump killers include:

– Easy-to-pour spectracide stump remover (a budget-friendly stump killer)

– Brush killer

– Bonide stump out

Making Use Of The Lumber

Once you’ve managed to uproot and kill tree stumps, you can still use the lumber or scrap wood from it in your garden, if the tree wasn’t diseased or decaying.

Considering the size, you can make it into a workbench, craft coasters, or even make useful furniture for your garden.