How to Kill a Tree Stump

Last Updated on September 17, 2021 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 obviously would love to keep as many trees around you as possible. But even trees aren’t eternal.

Trees can suffer from internal decay, get some disease that can be harmful to the foliage around or even be growing or leaning in a way that might be dangerous in harsh winds. In such cases, cutting down the tree becomes inevitable. Whether for commercial or non-commercial reasons, now that the tree has been cut down, it is time to remove the stump.

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.

Removing Tree Stumps with a Tractor

If you own or can rent a tractor, you’re in luck. This is probably one of the more convenient ways to uproot a tree stump. With the right attachment, you should be able to do this within minutes.

A backhoe attachment on a tractor is useful in many ways, like digging, loading and trenching. It can be a powerful piece of equipment to uproot a tree stump. Do keep in mind that the 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 roots from the soil.

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

How to Kill a Tree Stump with Goats

Did you know that goats are extremely efficient as tree stump killers? They love to munch on leaves, bushes and trees and will munch on any foliage around them. With tree stumps that aren’t already dying or decaying, new shoots tend to come off the stump every few weeks. Goats tethered nearby will eat these shoots and sometimes eat the bark as well. If this happens repeatedly for a couple of months, the stump eventually gives up creating new shoots and just dies.

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Due to this, goats are widely used as a form of natural reforestation in larger forests. Each day, they are tethered at various areas in the forest and their food is cut down such that they are forced to eat the tree stumps around them. Once the tree stump dies, newer plants are planted, to renew the forest.

Horses too can be used similarly, though having and maintaining goats is much cheaper in the long run.

Killing Tree Stumps with Bleach (Does It Work?)

Bleach is a great tree stump killer. It has to be used on freshly cut or live tree stumps to work effectively. To use this method first slice the stump using a chainsaw such that it doesn’t stand too high from the ground.

Then, use a 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 this sit for a few weeks.

In a few weeks, the stump should be dead. You can be sure by checking that no new shoots or branches are sprouting from the stump.

How to Kill a Tree Stump with Epsom Salts

You can use Epsom salts instead of bleach in a similar manner to kill a tree stump.

Epsom salts absorb water.

So, drill holes as before, and pour the Epsom salts into the drilled holes, they will absorb any moisture present in the stump, thus killing the tree. For larger stumps that take longer to die, repeat this process every 3 weeks.

Using Epsom salt is an inexpensive and safe way to kill a stump.

Not only does Epsom salt kill the tree stump, but it also improves the quality of the soil.

How to Kill a Tree Stump with Rock Salt

Just like Epsom salt, rock salt too can be used to kill a tree stump.

All you need to do is to pack the drilled holes completely with rock salt and then pour water such that the salt crystals get dissolved.

Do this on the soil around the stump as well, letting it seep into the soil.

Cover the stump with fertile soil or mulch to let the salt seep through completely. Once the salt gets absorbed by the stump and the roots, it 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.

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As the salt seeps into the soil, it can get absorbed by nearby plants and trees as well. So do not try this method if you have live and useful plants around the stump that you don’t intend to kill.

Anaerobic Compost Tea

Anaerobic compost tea is usually used in organic farming, to kill fungi and bacteria in the soil.

By using it on a tree stump, it should ideally kill the good fungi and bacteria in the wood, thus starving the tree to death. This works best on freshly cut trees that aren’t already dying.

To make anaerobic compost tea, just put some compost in a bucket of dechlorinated water and let it sit for 1-2 days. Once done, just pour it on the 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 open for at least 24 hours before adding the compost.

While this is not a proven method to kill a tree stump, if you do happen to have some anaerobic tea, it’s still worth a try.

Stump-Killing Herbicide

Trichlophyr and Glyphosate are herbicides that are efficient in killing fresh tree stumps. Herbicides work best when used immediately after cutting the tree, as the topmost layer of the stump will have still live wood.

Once the stump is killed, you can try other methods mentioned here to remove the stump.

These herbicides do not penetrate the soil, thus making them safe to use even if you have other plants nearby. Use this method when there are no chances of rain, as water can wash the herbicide away.

Stump Grinder

Stump grinders, as the name suggests, are types of equipment specifically designed to remove tree stumps. You can either rent a stump grinder and do it yourself or hire someone to do it for you.

It can be handled quite similarly to a lawnmower, so you just place it on the stump and turn it on. Move it around such that it grinds the stump layer by layer, eventually reaching the level of the ground.

The stump grinder throws out the chipped wood towards the back, so be sure to wear eye and ear protection while operating it.

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How Do You Get Rid of a Tree Stump With Kerosene?

Burning a tree stump is a surefire way to eradicate it. This only works for dead stumps though. You can use any of the above methods to kill the live tree stump.

Once the tree stump is dead, pour kerosene in the holes and on exposed roots. Let that sit for a few weeks. Once the kerosene has seeped through the stump and the roots, add a few logs and light a fire. Once it is completely burnt, you will be left with the ashes. Keep adding soil on top every few months and the ashes will soon get absorbed underneath.

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

Remove any flammable items from the surroundings of the stump. This includes leaves, twigs and lumber. Keep your retractable hose reel cart and/or sand close by as a precaution and don’t leave the fire unattended.

When Should You Kill a Tree Stump?

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

Tree stumps can be tough to get rid of. But keeping them around isn’t feasible either.

Especially if they are decaying, you should remove them as soon as possible. This also makes room to plant new trees at the spot.

There are several ways to kill a tree or vine stump, and even more to uproot or remove it. The above are just a few methods that you can easily implement to kill and remove a stump successfully.

Once you’ve managed to uproot the tree stump, you can still use the lumber from it, if the tree wasn’t diseased or decaying.

This section of the tree is the oldest part of the tree and hence has the strongest wood. Based on the size, you can upcycle it into a workbench, make coasters or even make some lovely furniture for your garden.