How to remove tough tree stumps and roots

Removing tough tree stumps can be harder than felling the tree itself, but it's a task worth taking care of sooner rather than later.

Removing tough tree stumps can be harder than felling the tree itself, but it's a task worth taking care of sooner rather than later. While a tree stump can lend your landscaping a certain rustic charm, they can cause a variety of unwanted side effects for your garden if left unchecked.

Honey fungus is among the most serious - by no means as sweet as it sounds, this viral infection can spread to other plants and remaining trees, and it can be deadly. Factor in the hassle of keeping insect infestation and suckers (new tree shoots) in check, and it's easy to see how removing it or killing off the stump completely can save you problems in the long run.

Getting Started

Making the removal of the stump an altogether easier task starts when the tree is felled. Whether you're doing this part yourself or employing a contractor, ensure that the trunk is cut as close to the ground as possible.

Smaller stumps can, of course, be removed by digging, roots and all, but for tougher specimens, you have two main options: using specialist machinery to grind the stump to sawdust then and there, or using a product that will kill off regrowth or help to speed up the natural process of decomposition.

While some people recommend burning as a way to quickly remove a stump, this carries a considerable risk - particularly in residential areas or dry climates - and is definitely best left to the professionals.

Whichever you opt for, you'll also want to make sure that children and pets are kept out of the garden on the day.

Using A Stump Grinder

There are times when you'll want a tree stump removed as quickly as possible, and this is where specialist machinery comes in handy.

Stump grinders are readily available for hire, but they are quite large and - like all motor-operated machines - potentially dangerous. If you suffer from poor mobility or poor eyesight, it's best to give this option a miss or employ a contractor to take care of it for you.

If you do decide to hire a stump grinder and do the work yourself, make sure that you tell the company you're renting it from the exact size of the stump you're planning to remove - they'll be able to advise you whether the machine you're renting is appropriate for the task, or whether you'll need to call a professional in.

Make sure that they run through the controls with you in detail - and do take all the recommended necessary safety precautions.

It's worth thinking ahead about what you'll do with the sawdust that the grinder leaves behind. If the original tree was diseased, you'll want to arrange for this to be removed from your property, but otherwise, it can be used for mulch elsewhere in the garden.

Using A Stump Killer

While leaving a stump to decay in its own time carries risks of infestation and infection, there are steps you can take to accelerate the process without resorting to hiring contractors or heavy machinery.

Stump killers contain active ingredients that work similarly to weed killer. Absorbed by the remaining stump, they prevent regrowth and therefore give you a valuable head start on the usually lengthy process of decomposition, killing it off entirely.

It's best to use these products on freshly cut stumps when the surface cells will be most receptive to the treatment. You also want to avoid attempting this when the stump is wet, so it's best to avoid days following heavy rainfall.

For smaller stumps, simply dilute the product with water and, wearing gloves to protect your skin, 'paint' it on to the cut surface using a clean brush.

Dealing with a particularly wide trunk? You can also drill into the top of the stump in a few places, and fill the resulting holes with more the diluted solution. This will help the product to penetrate the timber more quickly, speeding up the process of decay even further. Also, opening up the tree stump and letting in the air will also help the process.

When using a stump killer, a single application will usually work completely within about four to six weeks, meaning that the decomposition process can begin in earnest - a much-accelerated timescale.

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