How To Kill A Tree Stump

6 Ways How To Kill A Tree Stump + The Best Tree Stump Killers

Who doesn’t love having beautiful trees in their garden! but when these wonders of the ecosystem get damaged by pests, disease, or become a safety hazard we are left with no choice but to cut them down. A tree stump can be an unsightly problem, as well as inviting potential unwanted pests to your yard.

Want to know how to kill a tree stump? Follow our step-by-step actionable advice to make this task as simple and painless as possible, from budget chemical stump killers to organic stump removal methods. 

How To Kill A Tree Stump Fast

Before we explain all the options on how to kill a tree stump, let’s take a look at the unique characteristics of your tree trunk so we can decide on the best treatment. You need to ask yourself the following list of questions before using one or all of these strategies.

1. Is your tree stump small, medium, or large? Large stumps are trickier to remove than small ones so you may well need to apply a chemical stump killer as well as using organic techniques.

2. Does the tree have a deep root system? In general, the larger the tree, the deeper its roots so you’ll have to ensure the stump is completely removed with its roots. 

3. Is it a seasoned or freshly cut tree stump that’s an eyesore and ready to be taken out? You can choose one of the fastest stump removal methods based on how young or old your stump is. Keep reading for the most effective way to remove your tree stump.

Use A Chemical Tree Stump Killer

Using chemical tree stump killers is the least labor-intensive way to get rid of your stump and its roots. But be warned: this process will normally take some time to give the desired results, especially if the stump is large in size. In some cases, it can take as long as 6 months to completely rot a big stump naturally.

CheatAccelerate Stump Rot

The good news is, you can try this hack using an inexpensive chemical tree stump killer to get rid of that stump and cover with a tarp to accelerate the process. Follow these easy steps to learn how it’s done:

Step 1: Using a chainsaw, remove as much of the stump as you can. Be sure to wear protective gloves and goggles for this task.

Step 2: Drill holes through the remainder of the stump. Make sure you space the holes closely together and drill as deep as possible.

Step 3: Fill the holes with your chosen stump killer. Follow the instructions on the bottle before use.

Step 4: Pour water around the tree stump to get it saturated before covering the stump with a plastic tarp. This will help keep moisture in and accelerate the decomposing process.

Step 5: Check on the rotting progress regularly and add more stump killer if necessary.

Step 6: After a few weeks have passed, your stump should become spongy. Now you can use an axe to remove it from the ground (more on digging out the stump later). 

What Is The Best Stump Killer

So we’ve mentioned using a chemical stump killer, but with so many products available out there, which is the best product for your stump?

Comparing all the stump killers can be time-consuming as you’ll need to sift through dozens of options. So we’ve made this task easier for you by selecting 4 high-quality, premium-brand stump killers to suit all budgets with their pros and cons.

Our Top Picks of Best Stump Killers

1. Roundup Tree Stump And Root Killer

Round Up Tree Stump

Roundup is an extremely easy-to-use stump killer even for novice gardeners. This non-selective herbicide kills the trunk’s roots through systemic action. But it’s not just effective in killing a newly cut trump and its roots; you can also use the product for killing other tough and persistent weeds around the garden, gravel areas, along the fences and paths.

In fact, this stump killer can effectively eliminate deep-rooted weeds like bindweed and Japanese knotweed that we all know is difficult to kill.

How to apply: simply mix one cup of the liquid killer with 9 cups of water. The diluted concentrate is then ready to spray on the freshly cut stump. The mixture will quickly spread through the roots and prevent them from regeneration.

For optimal results, cut through the trunk with a chainsaw for maximum impact, before applying the product and covering it with a black plastic bag. The tree stump should begin dying within 2 to 4 weeks. 

Note: after killing the trunk and its roots, wait for at least 7 days before planting new grass or shrubs in the same area. 

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Good value. A bottle of 250 ml kills up to 16 tree stumps! 
  • Kills other weeds including deep-rooted perennials 

Cons:

  • Larger stumps take longer to kill 
  • Not so effective on old trunks

2. Spectracide HG-66420 Stump Remover

Spectracide Stump Remover

Now here is a budget-friendly stump killer that does exactly what it says on the bottle. The easy-to-pour Spectracide goes straight to the root and accelerates the decomposition process. This chemical stump killer is in granule form, and depending on the size of your tree stump, it can take several weeks or months for the decomposition process to complete.

What makes this stump killer stand out is its sole focus on killing the stump rather than the surrounding plants. So even if you accidentally spill it on the nearby grass or plants, you don’t need to worry about harming them.

Good to know: For freshly cut stumps, you must use a brush killer first before applying the granules. The 16-ounce product works well on small or medium stumps that are completely dry.

How to apply: After drilling the holes in your stump, you can then pour in the solution. Use hot water to break down the granules to make the dissolving process easier. 

Pros:

  • Not harmful to the surrounding plants
  • Best all-round value for money stump killer

Cons:

  • Not as effective on larger trunks
  • The decomposition process takes a longer

3. Gordon’s Stump Killer

How to kill a tree stump

When you’re on a budget and need an effective tree stump killer, then Gordon’s Stump Killer is a good option.

This is a ready-to-use stump killer is designed to rot a stump all the way down to its roots, and prevent regrowth, if used effectively. Combine it with a brush killer and apply inside drill holes. With 32 ounces in a bottle, you have more than enough for repeat applications or for killing several stumps.

The best part of this stump killer is that it comes in a handy squirt bottle. You can easily apply the liquid directly on the stump or drill holes through the outer layer to get the product deep into the tree core.

How to apply: pour the formula into the stump. The product is highly concentrated so you can dilute it with water to make it last longer. 

Pros:

  • Ready to use 
  • Can be applied directly on the stump using the convenient squirt bottle 
  • Very potent 

Cons:

  • May kill surrounding grass or plants
  • Slow to work

4. Bonide Stump Killer Out

Bonide Stump Killer Out

Unlike most other stump killers that are made of potassium nitrate, the Bonide Stump Killer Out is made from sodium metabisulfite, which is an inorganic preservative to combat microorganisms. You can apply this product to multiple stumps and clear them from your garden with ease.

It’s the clean and easy applicator cap that wins its place on our shortlist. Simply pour the granules deep into tree stumps and keep your hands clean.

It’s worth noting this product is designed to be used on old seasoned tree stumps. It’s not recommended on freshly cut stumps.

How to apply: drill 4 holes into the tree stump and pour the mix into each hole. Fill the holes with water and leave it for 6 weeks.

What we love about Bonide Stump Killer Out is that it has several uses, including killing vines. The precise applicator allows you to get the product onto the stump without much effort as it goes all the way to the root of the problem. No need to spend hours digging up or chopping your tree stump!  

Pros:

  • Penetrates deep into the stump’s roots 
  • No digging or chopping required
  • Ready to use granules

Cons:

  • Needs multiple applications to work
  • Can be time-consuming 
  • Only works on seasoned stumps 12-18mths old

How To Kill A Tree Stump Organically

DIY gardeners may prefer taking the natural root – I mean route – to kill a tree stump fast rather than using chemicals. If that’s you, then follow our suggestions on how to kill a tree stump organically.

Note: the natural process of killing your tree trunk may take longer and repeat applications are necessary. Plus it may not work on large stumps unless of course, you burn them. 

Remove A Tree Stump With Epsom Salt

If you wish to avoid chemicals, use the Epsom salt method to kill your tree trunk.

What is Epsom salt?

Also known as magnesium sulfate, this chemical compound is made up of sulfur, oxygen, and magnesium. Because it has a similar appearance to table salt, you can use it in baths or treat ailments like insomnia. However, Epsom salt tastes bitter so you won’t want to add it to your food. 

Epsom salt has popularly been used to rot tree trunks but it can harm the surrounding plant roots so be extra vigilant when using it. 

Step 1: Start by drilling holes with a 1-inch drill bit. Drill them 8 inches deep into the trunk before pouring the Epsom salt mixture deep into the stump core and around the stump itself. Drill the holes a few inches apart. Make sure you use a power drill, we recommend a 10 Amp drill.

Step 2: Apply a thick layer of salt for best results. This natural method prevents the roots from absorbing water and nutrients.  Pour some water over the salt to dissolve it so it soaks into the stump. Cover the stump with plastic to prevent rain washing off the salt.

Step 3: Reapply salt once a week for as long as it takes for the trunk to become brittle and dry. If the color of the trunk is still light, reapply the mixture for a further week or so. 

Step 4: When the trunk is brittle enough, remove it from the ground with an axe or shovel or similar tool. This is a slow technique, but it will work.

Best Method Of Burning A Tree Stump

Tree stumps don’t burn as easily as you think so you’ll have to prepare them before setting them alight.

There are several different methods of burning the stump, so before you get your matches out, read our guide here:

Prepare first: Just lighting a match to the trunk won’t cut it. Instead, you will need to prepare the stump by digging and drilling a few days beforehand.

  1. Make sure the tree stump is seasoned and dry. You won’t be able to burn a fresh damp tree stump.
  2. Drill deep holes into the stump around 8 inches deep, with a 1-inch drill bit. Drill from the top, side, and down into the roots. The aim is to create a hollow area where air and the flames can penetrate and envelope the stump
  3. Cover the stump between drilling sessions to prevent damp ingress from rainwater.
  4. You can cut into the stump with a chain saw to fray the edges and penetrate the wood, to create tinder like surfaces.
  5. Fill the holes with flammable liquid. Ideally, let it soak into the dry tree stump. Or you can use a cloth soaked in flammable liquid and run it through the drill holes to act as a wick.
  6. If possible surround the stump with a bottom-less metal bin. Place charcoals on top of the trunk as if you were making a charcoal fire or BBQ
  7. If you want strong flames, you’ll need oxygen to speed up the burning process. Use a leaf blower or a reversed vacuum cleaner to do the trick. It won’t take long for the fire to blaze, but be careful you don’t burn down your entire garden – or the neighbors.
  8. Once the stump is alight it should burn down to a very slow burn, from the inner cavity holes you have created and effectively burn from the inside out. This process will take around 24 hours of slow-burning.

Warning!

Safety is paramount. If you use flammable liquid under no circumstances should you try to reapply the liquid once the fire has been lit. Even if you think the stump is not fully alight, leave it 24 hours to cool, before you attempt to start again.

Block Out The Sunlight

If the roots remain in good shape, the stump can regrow, or throw up shoots. Isn’t that every gardener’s worst nightmare! 

You can put a stop to that by shielding the trunk from the sun. Cover the stump with a thick black plastic bag. This method will:

  • Increase the stump’s temperature and suck out any residual moisture
  • Preventing sunlight from reaching the stump and prevent it from putting out new shoots 

The tree trunk will die down much quicker than if it were to rot naturally. Although, this is a slow natural process.

Tip

Combine this natural method with a tree stump killer from our list above to speed things up.

Use Copper Nails To Kill Tree Stump

Copper is a metal that interferes with the tree’s growth metabolism. Using the copper nail method has proven to be quite effective when it comes to killing small and medium-sized tree trunks and keep serious chemicals out of your yard.

What you’ll need…just copper nails.

Make sure the nails are full copper not just copper coated. Otherwise the coating will soon wear off.

Step 1: Hammer the copper nails to the base of the trunk. Go as low as you can by placing the nails at a downward angle as close to the roots as possible. Continue hammering the copper nails in at 1 or 1.5-inch intervals. 

Step 2: After you’ve completed this process, cut off any visible sprouts and roots. This method will encourage the tree to simulate drawing food or nutrients from the copper nails instead. 

Step 3: Leave the copper nails in the trunk for as long as possible. A small tree of around 3 diameters will rot within a month. For medium-sized trunks, it may take up to 3 months or more. But you will see the stump dying within a matter of weeks. This doesn’t mean your work is done so just leave the nails in the trunk for a while longer. 

Step 4: Once the stump is dead, you can begin the removal process. Make sure all the nails are removed first. For the safest and quickest nail removal solution, use a nail puller or spike. 

Grind Up The Stump in 5 Easy Steps 

The easiest and quickest way to remove the stump is with a grinder. This machine will save you money as you won’t have to hire an arborist to do the job. Here is how to grind up the stump with a grinder:

Step 1: Clear the rocks and debris away from the trunk using a shovel.

Step 2: Position the grinder a few inches above the trunk and turn on the machine.

Step 3: Lower the grinder and move it from side to side.

Step 4: Grind up the trunk using the wheel of the grinder and repeat until the entire perimeter is around 3 inches below the ground.  

Step 5: Backfill the hole and treat is as required with top soil or other top layer of organic material.

Conclusion: How to Kill A Tree Stump

Tree stumps are not only an eyesore, but they also cause unwanted pests like termites to attack your lawn. You could even trip over a stump when mowing your grass!

Tree stump killers are incredible products for speeding up the rotting process. These chemical killers make the process of removing the stump much easier.

All you have to do is apply them to the top of the stump and wait for the de-composing process to begin over a course of a few weeks.  

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