How to Kill a Tree Stump: Complete Guide and Best 8 Products

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Garden renovations take a lot of time and effort. Even after hours of cutting down trees that obstruct views, their pesky stumps leave behind more work for you. Tree stumps are unsightly, a stumbling risk, or might attract pests such as termites, fungus, and germs which can be a nuisance to deal with. Usually, the stumps will rot on their own, but that’s only when the tree itself dies after being cut down. In fact, chopping down a tree doesn’t guarantee that it’ll die. The shock may kill it, but sometimes it’ll survive, and its stump will start growing back.

Apart from potential regrowth, stumps cause a lot of inconvenience. They take up garden space that you can use for other plants. They can start growing back and root more firmly into the ground, making it much harder to remove them later on. They may take years to decompose and decay organically. Plus, they could leech up nutrients and negatively impact the growth of your other plants.

So, by removing tree stumps, you can improve your garden in a lot of ways. Your plants will receive more natural lighting. The stump won’t suck up nutrients from the soil that the rest of your garden needs as well. And you will have much more space left in the garden for decorative and gardening purposes.

If you recently cut down a tree and want to know how to kill the leftover tree stump, we’ve got you covered. In this article, you’ll find several methods for killing tree stumps. These include several DIY and professional solutions for your problem, along with product recommendations for the job. So here is a complete guide on how to kill a tree stump.


OUR FAVORITES

  • Easy-pour bottle design
  • Safe for use around vegetation
  • No unpleasant odors
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  • Works on freshly cut trees
  • Wide range of uses
  • Convenient application
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  • Great potassium nitrate alternative
  • Best for long-term use
  • Easy-pour granules
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Best Products For Killing Stumps 

Since there are a bunch of products present on the market for this task, it might be hard to decide on the best one. This is why we have compiled a diverse list of tried and tested products that work best in killing tree stumps. With this, you’ll have an easier time narrowing down the products that will work best for your task:

1. Fertilome Brush Killer/Stump Killer – Best Overall Stump Killer

Item Type: Concentrated Liquid

Item Weight: 2.27 pounds

Compatibility: Woody plants and freshly chopped stumps

None of the pesky weeds in your garden stand a chance against this powerhouse of a product.

The package includes a brush you can use to easily apply the solution on stumps or plants. Alternatively, you can pour the substance into a spray bottle and kill weeds with it. This product works great on freshly cut stumps.

However, you need to act fast when working with it. Basically, after chopping down a tree, apply the solution on the stump within 45 minutes of cutting. This way, you can achieve the best results and completely get rid of annoying stumps. If you want to use it on woody plants, check the label to find a full list of the plants that this product can effectively kill.

Pros

  • Works on freshly cut trees
  • Wide range of uses
  • Convenient application

2. Spectracide Stump Remover – Top Rated Stump Killer

Item Type: Granular

Item Weight: 1 pound

Compatibility: Warm climate and dry stumps

The granules come in an easy-pour bottle, allowing you to easily apply the product all around the stump.

The amount you need depends on the size of the stump. But, the granules take a relatively long time to take effect, sometimes weeks or even months. Just pour the granules into the drill holes, and the formula will start doing its work.

It is a budget-friendly product that will help with stump removal jobs in your yard without being heavy on your pocket. The best way to use it is by first diluting the granules into a solution and then pouring them over the stump.

Pros

  • Easy-pour bottle design
  • Safe for use around vegetation
  • No unpleasant odors

3. Bonide Stump And Vine Killer – Most User-Friendly Stump Killer

Item Type: Granular

Item Weight: 0.45 pounds

Compatibility: Vegetative lawns and yards

The cap makes for easy application, which allows you to pour the granules into the stump. This product works best on old trees that are already in the process of decaying. It also helps to inhibit the growth of sprouts in freshly chopped tree stumps.

The best way to use it is by applying it to a recently cut tree to stop sprouts or shoots from growing out. Then after 12 months, reapply the granules to accelerate the decaying process and help break down the cellulose layers of the stump.

Pros

  • Great potassium nitrate alternative
  • Best for long-term use
  • Easy-pour granules

4. Bonide Stump-Out Chemical Stump Remover – Most Versatile Stump Killer

Item Type: Granular

Item Weight: 1 pound

Compatibility: 12-month seasoned tree stumps

The selling point of this product is that it works great as a support item for several methods. It’s best used on tree stumps that have already been seasoned for more than a year prior to application.

If you’ve used the stump and vine killer on a trunk, then follow up with this product to further speed up the decaying process. And if you’ve used the burning method to kill the tree stump, add these granules prior to combustion to help the fire burn more effectively.

Pros

  • Works great for old trees
  • Excellent for tree combustion
  • Multipurpose usage; can be paired up with various stump removers

5. Frienda Copper Nails For Killing Tree Stumps – Most Environmentally-Friendly Stump Killer

Item Type: Copper metal nails

Item Weight: 0.325

Compatibility: Small to medium-sized tree stumps

The nails come packed in a box, so you don’t have to worry about storage issues.

Each nail is 3.5 inches long, which is adequate for dealing with small and medium-sized stumps. The nails help save energy and don’t harm the rest of your garden. In fact, they trick the tree roots into drawing out nutrients from them, leaving more nutrients in the soil for your precious plants to enjoy. You can also use them for odd jobs around the house if you have extra left after a stump removal job.

Pros

  • High-quality material and 100% copper
  • Cost-effective stump removal option
  • Box makes for easy storage

6. Southern Ag Stump And Brush Killer – Best Growth Inhibiting Stump Remover

Item Type: Concentrated liquid

Item Weight: 1.17 pounds

Compatibility: Non-crop areas like roads, pavements, fencing

Simply apply it over the stump’s surface if you notice any sprout growth, and it will kill it in no time.

Additionally, if you apply it regularly to the stump, it will deter its growth, causing it to die. This way, you can accelerate the rotting process, making it easier and quicker to remove the stump. And if unwanted woody plants, weeds, and vines have found their way into your garden, use this product to drive them out for good.

Pros

  • Kills sprouting stumps instantly
  • Effective in killing surrounding weeds
  • Accelerates tree decay effectively

7. Radius Garden Root Slayer Shovel – Sturdiest Stump Removing Shovel

Item Type: Carbon Steel Shovel

Item Weight: 5 pounds

Compatibility: All gardens

The Radius Garden root slayer shovel is specifically designed to handle heavy-duty digging tasks for stump and rock removal.

It is made of carbon steel, making it highly durable and sturdy enough to dig out stubborn stumps from your garden. It also has an ergonomic design, which makes your job much easier. You can also use it to dig out and expose tree roots that are too deep for manual removal. Since you will need a shovel for nearly every stump removal method you can think of, we especially recommend this one for the job.

Pros

  • Multipurpose tool
  • Great for prepping stumps before removal
  • Ergonomic design for easy usage

8. SchuhRia Stump Grinder Chainsaw – Most Heavy-Duty Stump Grinder

Item Type: Galvanized steel saw disc

Item Weight: 0.3 pounds

Compatibility: Wooden items and stumps

It is made using high-quality materials that don’t wear out easily.

The saw is versatile, and you can use it to carve out stumps and quickly get rid of them. It is also lightweight as it uses galvanized steel in its construction. This makes it much easier to operate tools. But, make sure to go through the safety guides and have safety equipment ready before you get to work with it.

Pros

  • Can handle physically demanding tasks easily
  • Quickest in removing stumps
  • Made of lightweight yet sturdy materials

How To Kill A Tree Stump Quickly

If you want to get rid of the stump as quickly as you can, there are a variety of ways to go about it. But keep in mind that you’ll require lots of energy and stamina for these tasks. Plus, it may cost you a lot too, depending on the method you choose.

Each process has its pros and cons and requires different levels of effort and money. So read on to find the method that best suits your needs.

How To Kill A Tree Stump

Shovel Out The Roots

One method of removing a tree stump from your garden is to simply dig it out. But this method requires time and effort, and if not done right, it can even be harmful to your yard or garden. This approach allows you to remove as many tree roots as possible while also preventing the stump from growing. If you only have small tree stumps to take care of, digging will be much easier to do.

Plus, digging is relatively quick because you have complete control over the work. You can start when you want to and finish as early as you clear the tree stump and roots. The soil’s condition will influence the difficulty and efficiency of this technique. For example, hard, dry, or rocky soil can make digging extremely difficult. The depth and spread of the roots also determine the task’s difficulty level.

The Proper Way To Dig

If you’ve decided to dig out your tree stumps, it’s best to know how to do it the right way. Otherwise, you might end up ruining the rest of your garden and have more work to do. So here’s how to dig out your tree stump properly:

  • Start off by shoveling around the tree stump to expose the roots underground.
  • Once you’re finished exposing the roots, cut them out. Use a chainsaw, ax, or other heavy-duty tools to cut off larger and thicker roots. Smaller roots only require loppers or clippers for cutting.
  • When you’re done cutting out the roots, it’ll be much easier to lift the stump. So just grab the stump and remove it from the ground.
  • Afterward, refill all the areas you dug up and use topsoil to cover them up.

Burn The Stump To The Ground

A fantastic way to get rid of a tree stump is to burn it. Based on the size of the stump, the burning process could take about 24-48 hours. However, you’ll need to spend a couple of days carving burning slits or drilling holes in the tree stump, as well as soaking the stump in gasoline or oil to aid the burning process.

However, this approach does have several risks involved and requires precautionary measures. And while this procedure will kill the tree, it won’t completely get rid of the stump. Take into account that if you live in a dry environment susceptible to wildfires, this method may not be the best choice. Contact the local fire department to determine if burning a tree stump is permissible under the fire code in your area.

How To Efficiently Burn The Stump 

As mentioned before, the stump needs to be prepped before being burned. You can’t directly set the stump on fire, as trees don’t burn as easily as you might think. After you’ve received approval to burn your stump, you have a few options. There are various techniques for preparing the tree stump for burning, so choose what you find more convenient. The options include:

Saw Or Drill The Stump

The sawing method is an easy way to prep the stump. It involves using a chainsaw or pole saw to carve openings on the stump’s surface. You can either carve crisscrossing or grid lines about 5-6 inches deep in the wood. This is a great approach to provide space for the flames to go deep into the stump for quick and efficient combustion.

The drilling technique is also done to accomplish the same result. The key distinction is that in this method, you use a drill to make holes vertically and horizontally into the stump as opposed to creating grids. Your goal is to produce overlapping and interconnecting drill holes.

Ensure The Stump Is Dry

A damp stump will prove impossible to burn. So, make sure that the tree stump is completely dry and seasoned before you attempt to burn it. Otherwise, all your efforts will go to waste. If the stump is damp, you’ll have to leave it for a few months before you can attempt to burn it. In case of rain forecasts, cover the stump with tarps or other waterproof materials to protect it from getting soaked.

What To Burn With

With holes and grids, it will be much easier for the fire to spread inside the stump. To light the fire, you can use different kinds of fuels, but make sure to be careful when using them. Flammable liquids like diesel fuels can be toxic to the surrounding plants and not provide an effective slow burn. It is better to use smaller amounts of kerosene. To cover the stump with kerosene, soak a cloth with it and attach it to a drill. Then use it in the holes or grids to completely cover it up.

Kindling or charcoal are also effective for burning. All you have to do is light the coals/kindling and place them inside the gaps. Use a leaf blower or fan to facilitate a faster burning process. Start from the middle so that the fire burns from inside out. The flames should slowly burn the whole stump. The process could take at least 24 hours to finish, depending on the size and type of tree.

Monitor The Flames

Fire is risky to deal with due to its volatile nature. During the entire burning process, make sure to monitor the fire from time to time to ensure that there are no issues. Be cautious of any floating embers as they can spread the fire to unwanted areas. If the surrounding area has a risk of catching fire, surround the stump with a bottomless metal bin to keep the fire from spreading.

Use A Stump Grinder

The quickest way to remove a tree stump is to use a professional stump grinder. It also has the least impact on your garden’s natural soil structure. The only real disadvantages of this strategy are the laborious nature of the task and the expenses involved in renting such a massive and possibly dangerous device.

Stump grinders are large, loud machines that demand a certain amount of skill for safe operation. These machines effectively chip away the roots as well as the timber in the stump. Depending on the size, placement, and quality of wood, the procedure for each stump might take anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours.

So, before you get started, do some research on stump grinders. For your convenience, we’ve included a short guide on how to use stump grinders.

How To Use A Stump Grinder

Initial Prepping

Before you begin, you should study your surroundings. Determine the size of the stump and rent a grinder accordingly. Make sure your garden has adequate space for the grinder since they come in a variety of sizes. Prepare in advance to ensure that you can take the grinder from the delivery point to the location of the tree stump. When working with a heavy-duty instrument like this, you should always wear earplugs, safety boots, gloves, and goggles. Properly read the operating instructions and safety guidelines to prevent making mistakes that might destroy your garden or risk your safety.

Step-By-Step Instructions
  1. Check the area around the stump for any debris, rocks, or stones and clear them out. For extra measure, dig up the surrounding soil to completely clear up the area. This will prevent the debris from being launched into the air or getting stuck in the grinder.
  2. Trim up the trunk to make operation much easier.
  3. Before turning on the grinder, place it a few inches above the stump.
  4. Now slowly move the machine from side to side across the stump while gradually lowering it. Only make small and gentle movements, and let the grinder handle the rest.
  5. Keep crushing the stump with the grinder’s wheel until the whole circumference is about 3 inches under the ground. Remember to take breaks in the middle if you feel tired.
  6. Once the whole stump is gone, refill the areas you dug with soil. Backfill the pit and cover it as desired with topsoil, mulch, or another organic top layer.

Hire Professionals To Remove The Stump

If all else fails, or you don’t want to put the rest of your garden at risk, hiring a professional is the way to go. Just make sure that you have the budget for it. This is the best way to make sure no harm comes to you or the rest of your yard. A tree removal specialist will determine the best way to get rid of the stumps and get the job done faster. So if you want to quickly move on with renovating the rest of your garden, a professional will help speed up your work.


How To Kill A Tree Stump With Minimal Effort

If you aren’t in a hurry to get rid of the stump and would rather let it decay gradually, there are lots of ways to do that too. These methods are relatively less physically demanding and don’t require any additional expertise to execute. But, it might take several months for the stump to die and decay with these methods.

Tree stumps take years to rot on their own, and that’s only after they die. With these DIY techniques, you can learn how to kill a tree stump simply by accelerating its decay process to less than a year. Here are some popular methods people use to kill their tree stumps safely and effortlessly:

Stump Killing Products

Using chemical stump killers is frequently the slowest but also the least labor-intensive and safest technique of removing your stump and its roots. This is also why it is the most common DIY method. Various chemical stump killers are widely available on the market. But, before we get into which ones are the most efficient, you must first understand how to handle these products.

How To Use Stump Killing Products

Go through the following steps to use your chemical stump killer appropriately and get the best results:

  • Remove as much of the stump as possible with a chainsaw or hatchet by cutting it down to the ground. Wear thick gloves and goggles to ensure complete safety. Cut the tree bark off completely because it carries a type of waterproofing that can inhibit decomposition.
  • Now, take your drill and bore deep vertical holes into the rest of the stump. The holes should be spaced around 1-2 inches apart and drilled at least 6 inches deep. Try to drill the trunk all the way down to the level of the nearby earth.
  • Now, fill each drill hole with the chemical stump killer that you have bought. To achieve the best results, read the manufacturer’s directions on the bottle before using it. If your product is granular in nature, you will need to add water to the drill holes to enable the particles to mix and absorb into the stump’s natural fiber.
  • Regularly inspect the decaying process and, if required, add more stump killer. After a few weeks, your stump should be soft and spongy. This means that it’s suitable for digging out, chopping, or pickaxing.

Epsom Salts

Epsom salt, commonly known as magnesium sulfate, is a sulfur, oxygen, and magnesium-based substance. It is classified as organic since it contains natural minerals. Magnesium and sulfur are good for plants, but they are fatal in high dosages. Overdosing the stump with Epsom salt causes it to lose moisture, which kills it and speeds up the decomposition process.

Here’s how to get rid of a tree stump using Epsom salt:

  • Using a power drill and a broad drill bit, bore deep holes in the stump approximately an inch wide.
  • After coating the stump’s surface with Epsom salt, spray it with water.
  • Wrap the stump with a tarp to prevent the material from being washed away by rain.
  • To guarantee that this method is successful, repeat it every few weeks.

Epsom Salts on tree stump

Rock Salts

Rock salt, like Epsom salt, helps to kill and rot a stump with little effort. It uses the same application method as Epsom salt, so simply follow the directions mentioned earlier to prepare your stump.

To keep the stump wet with the saltwater solution, hydrate it every few days for 1-2 months. This will encourage the absorption and proliferation of fungus, which will hasten the stump’s breakdown. You may also use a potassium nitrate fertilizer to help the fungus grow faster.

Bleach

Applying bleach is trickier than using standard chemicals for tree-killing. It is a runny liquid and can flow into places you don’t want. Plus, bleach can have a run-off effect on the surrounding vegetation and wildlife, which can be detrimental. But if you only have small tree stumps to take care of, there should be no issues in using bleach.

The main difference between the bleach approach and purpose-made stump-killing chemicals is the time of the application. You chop the small or midsize tree down and immediately apply bleach to the moist trunk surface, straight across the exposed surface. This will allow the bleach to enter the tree stump and spread all across the root system, eventually killing it.

If this doesn’t seem to work, cut the stump a little lower and reapply the beach. It should work slowly but surely. Keep in mind that bleach will not result in cellular changes as fast as chemical stump killers do. But if you’re not in a rush, it’s a viable option.

Boiled Water

This DIY method is the cheapest out of all the others, so if you’re looking to save money, try this technique. It doesn’t require you to buy additional materials. All you need is your tap water. So here is a small guide on how to kill a tree stump with boiled water.

  • Just like the techniques mentioned above, first, dig around the stump and expose the roots as much as possible.
  • Start drilling into the stump as deep as the drill can go. This way, the hot water can permeate into the stump’s roots and do its work.
  • Now, pour the scalding hot water into the drilled holes. Make sure to completely soak the stump. The heat will shock the roots enough to severely damage and gradually cause the roots to die.

Tarp Or Plastic Wraps

Leaving a tree stump in the dark is the simplest way to kill it. The tree stump will perish if it is not exposed to sunshine, hastening the disintegration process. In two to three months, the rotting process should begin.

Here’s how to use a plastic bag or sheet to destroy a tree stump:

  • Cut the stump.
  • Use a black garbage bag, plastic wrap, or tarp to cover the stump.
  • Put large boulders or bricks on the wrap or tarp to make it heavier. Cover the stump with a dark-colored bucket or container to completely block off any light.

Although this procedure needs little to no effort, it is slower than manual removal methods.

Copper Nails

You might think this method is strange, but it works just as well as the others. Copper can deter growth and metabolism in plants and trees by diverting their nutrient intake. This method works great for small to medium-sized stumps and is a great alternative to using toxic chemicals.

Here is a guide on how to kill a tree stump with copper nails;

  • Purchase nails made entirely out of copper as opposed to nails only coated in it. The nails should be approximately 4-6 inches long so that they can penetrate deep into the stump.
  • Chop the stump’s surface as low as possible. Also, clear out the bark while you’re at it.
  • Take the nails and hammer them into the base of the trunk. Try to aim for the roots when doing so. Hammer them in at 1.5-2 inch intervals.
  • Now, remove any visible roots or sprouts protruding from the stump. The roots will start drawing out nutrients from the nails instead of the soil. This will eventually cause the stump to die.


Factors That Affect Tree Rot

  • The rate at which a tree stump rots is determined by a variety of things, including some that you are unable to control. A hardwood tree, for example, will take more time to decay than a softwood tree. However, you can take certain actions to speed up stump decay.
  • The decaying process requires lots of oxygen, which is why the soil type in the area and its compactness will impact the pace of decomposition. Therefore, if your stump is surrounded by well-aerated soil, it will aid in the root and stump decomposition process.
  • Temperature and moisture in the air can also play a role in providing the optimum decaying environment for stumps.

How to Accelerate

There are certain things you can do to speed up the decaying process. It all depends on how the stump is prepared. Since open space and aeration are the ideal decaying conditions, you can simulate this environment yourself by taking a few steps.

  • Trim the stump as much as possible to expose its surface entirely. Remove the bark as well, as it inhibits the decomposing process. Create grooves in the wood using a chainsaw or drill, then remove the surrounding soil to aerate it.
  • Now simply water the stump and the soil around it to soften the wood, and facilitate the decomposition procedure.

Some General Things To Look Out For

Safety

Your safety comes before anything else. If you’re new to gardening and aren’t used to laborious work like stump removal, you should ensure you’re completely prepared for the task. It’s not just your own safety that you need to look out for. So, if you aren’t confident in your own ability, it is much better to let a professional handle the task. It’ll save you a lot of time and effort and also ensure that no one gets hurt.

Toxic Products

While chemicals are easy to use and make the job a lot easier, they can be harmful to the surrounding plants. Make sure to check the ingredients and labels of the products that you use. Make sure to only use the recommended amounts, as too much can affect the soil and plants around the area. You can also opt for organic products that don’t have detrimental effects on the environment and do the job just as well.

Fire Hazards

If you’re planning on going for the burning method, there is some planning that needs to be done beforehand. First, you need to make sure that the area doesn’t have any shrubs or other flammable plants that could potentially turn into a wildfire. Take the necessary permits and measures to keep the fire contained within a boundary. Monitor the fire constantly until the stump is completely burned down.


 

Conclusion

Tree stumps are a nuisance to deal with. They take up precious floor space and attract unwanted bugs and insects to your garden. So if you want to get rid of the tree stump residing in your backyard, it’s time to get to work. By using one of the above methods, your garden will soon be stump-free and ready for decoration and renovations.

Follow our tips and take the right steps. Soon your garden will turn into a beautiful space for you to enjoy tea or read books in. Happy gardening!

FAQs

What is the fastest way to rot a tree stump?

If you want to rot a tree stump without using machinery, then chemicals are best for accelerating the rotting process. Applying chemicals in cavities bored into the stump accelerates the natural decay process, allowing the remaining tree fiber and roots to decompose more quickly. It is regarded as one of the most effective methods for removing a tree stump from your yard. The process takes about 6-12 months to finish.
A stump grinder will also get rid of that stump in a few hours if you’re willing to put the work in. The machine is specifically designed for this job and does it efficiently. So if you prefer to use mechanical methods to remove tree stumps, stump grinders are the way to go.

Does vinegar kill a tree stump?

If chemicals aren’t your first choice, home remedies like vinegar can help. Vinegar on its own won’t kill the entire tree stump. But in its undiluted form, it will kill any leaves or shoots growing out of the tree stump. This will deter the supply of food to roots, which will eventually lead to the stump dying. The process requires routine applications, as more leaves can grow out of the stump. Eventually, the stump won’t be able to grow any more leaves, causing it to die.

How do you get rid of tree stumps naturally?

There isn’t a 100% natural way to kill tree stumps. If left alone, a dead tree stump will take 3-8 years to decay completely, depending on its size. However, you can use organic salts like Epsom or rock salts to accelerate this process. Vinegar can also help quicken the decaying process, although not by a lot. This way, the surrounding plants can stay safe, and your garden won’t end up getting damaged either.

Can you burn out a tree stump?

Yes, you can burn out a tree stump, but it needs some prepping. You must first trim down the stump with a chainsaw. Then, carve about 5-6-inch deep grooves all over the stump’s surface. Once you’re done with that, coat the stump with a flammable liquid or put burning charcoal in the grooves to set the stump alight. Ensure the fire burns from inside all the way to the outside. In about 24-48 hours, your stump should be completely burned out.

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