A tree has become a nuisance, it is sick or simply already dead and you have decided to cut it down. What remains in the middle of your garden is the stump! Home-made recipe, mechanical or chemical intervention… the solutions seem numerous to get rid of it. But what is it really?
Should we remove the stump from a tree root?
This is finally the first question to ask. roots are often used as shelters for many insects, such as ground beetles, which are very useful in the garden.
And why not use a beautiful stump as a stool for an improvised break in the garden, or as a support for a flower pot?
7 ways to get rid of a tree root
1. Rip out the stump
It is never easy to remove the stump of a tree or shrub, especially when you want to remove a hedge. Depending on the species:
- It may have long roots of varying depths that will have to be found and cut with a pruner or a pruning saw (for the smaller ones), an axe or a chainsaw, for the larger ones.
- Its weight can be important. Once the root is free of the surrounding soil, it is difficult to lift or requires the use of a mechanical shovel.
If you want to remove the stump from a small tree yourself :
- First, avoid cutting the tree flush to the ground. It is more practical to leave 23 inches to 1 m of trunk length so that you can move the stump back and forth to help loosen it from the ground.
- Start by removing the soil around the stump with a pickaxe until you can access the roots.
- Clear the soil over and under the roots so you can slide and maneuver the tool to cut them (axe, saw, trimmer…)
- If your root is not too big, you can slide a crowbar or a crowbar underneath to try to lift it and pull out the remaining small roots. Lean on a large stone for leverage.
- Then move it by manipulating it with the remaining part of the trunk. Little by little, you will succeed in extracting it.
If your tree root is too heavy to be extracted by hand, use a chain hoist or a small motorized winch, making sure that the chain surrounds the root at the roots.
If your stump is very large and you have the necessary space, a mechanical shovel becomes essential. It is then better to call a professional.
2. Rotting a stump in place
Rather than ripping it out, some gardeners choose to let the stump decompose on site. But, depending on the nature of the wood and its size, it can obviously take many years for it to rot. However, this decomposition process can be accelerated.
To speed up the process even more:
- Clean the surface of the root of all wood chips.
- Then, using a drill with a wood drill bit, drill holes close together in the center and around the edges of the root.
- Fill them with saltpetre (nitrate of potash) or with a root killer. Plug the holes with a cork or wooden stopper.
- Leave the saltpeter to work for 10 to 12 months, then uncork.
- Then pour disaromatized kerosene inside the holes in the stump and with infinite care, set it on fire. Oil does not ignite as violently as gasoline, so this method is less dangerous!
- The fire will slowly consume the entire stump and turn the roots into charcoal. Removal will then be easier.
If you want to use a chemical-free method of destroying a tree stump, do as the ancients did!
If you cut your tree low to the ground, you can already deprive the root of light by covering it with a black garbage bag or simply with soil. In this humid environment, the wood-eating fungi will get to work faster.
Conversely, you can also dig holes all over the root and let rainwater seep in, which will promote wood rot.
You can also slash the surface of the root with an axe or chainsaw.
Finally, gardeners used to dig holes in the root and slip in a clove of garlic or cheese. It is not certain that this old trick is really effective…
3. Use a mini excavator
Calling in a contractor with a mini excavator is still the fastest, but most expensive way to remove a tree stump. A few pushes and pulls of the shovel on the stump emerging from the ground are enough to destabilize the root ball. The stump is then easily removed.
Recover as much soil and divots as possible before the stump is removed to fill in the gaping hole. If necessary, ask for a careful levelling of the ground with the shovel.
Remember to check that the stump site is accessible to the machine beforehand.
4. Use a root planer
A root grinder can be rented from specialized stores at a cost of about $250 to $300 per day.
The principle is to grind the root to a depth of 10 to 16 inches, depending on the power of the motorized machine, thanks to a disc equipped with teeth that will rotate at a very high speed in order to nibble the root progressively, as it is passed. You will need to equip yourself with a protective face shield that is effective against wood splinters, in addition to appropriate clothing and gloves.
The advantage of this method is that it does not turn the terrain into a battlefield full of gaping craters, as a mini excavator will. However, the mini-excavator will remove the stump, whereas the planer will only remove the top of the stump.
5. Leave it to nature
This is the most ecological option. The stump is quickly colonized by a host of small, sometimes microscopic animals (birds, wood-eating insects, bacteria, fungi, etc.) that will contribute, by finding food and shelter, to its degradation over one to several years, depending on the species and size of the stump.
6. Accelerate the rotting of the stump
- Dig with a pick and shovel to clear the root for at least 12 to 16 inches.
- Saw or chainsaw off the main roots near the root to deprive it of water and food.
- Cut back as much of the log as possible with a chainsaw and cover the root with soil.
The root will not be in the way when buried like this, and the lack of light combined with the moisture in the soil will hasten the decay of the wood.
7. Burning the stump
Do it in dry weather and during the period when fires are allowed in your municipality. Avoid this in dry regions such as the south of France to avoid causing fires.
Make some nice cuts on the stump with an axe or a chainsaw, then cover it with dry pine needles and twigs.
You can also drill many holes with a large-diameter wood drill and pour a low-energy flammable liquid (kerosene or kerosene) into them.
Light the fire and feed it constantly so that the stump is destroyed thoroughly.
8. Planing the root
When the stump is large, the last solution is to plane it. This requires specific equipment driven by a professional. If you are used to big jobs, you can rent this type of machine from an equipment rental agency.
The operation will consist of gradually trimming the root 4 inches below ground level. The root planer shreds the wood into small pieces.
Once the root and exposed roots are processed, all that remains is a pile of coarse wood chips. This pile protrudes well above the ground, but as it decomposes, it quickly disappears. These wood fragments decompose in about 6 months.
9. Grandma’s methods
The ancestral trick recommended by Green Shack: do as our elders did when they used the properties of garlic to devitalize a root. Proceed in summer so that the garlic germinates well. Dig holes in the root and place garlic cloves in them. As they germinate, they will release a toxic substance into the sap that will kill the root. This process does not work with all tree species.
There are other more or less reliable tricks passed down from gardener to gardener or found on the internet:
- install a composting silo or directly a compost pile on the root. The decomposition activity of the composted plants will accelerate the disappearance of the stump of a tree species that does not produce offsets
- Pouring road salt into holes is effective but should be avoided because of the toxicity of salt. This would make the site sterile for a few years.
- put a black tarp to deprive the root of light. This will have little effect with a vigorous tree species that will quickly lift the plastic to regain light
- pour milk or ribot milk after drilling holes, as a decomposition gas pedal for the wood. This has never been proven effective in tests by forestry advisory bodies
- Spreading jam and/or sugar on the stump to attract ants to make their anthill is more of a joke than a serious advice