How to Kill a Tree Stump

Trees are one of nature’s miracles. However, sometimes it is necessary to cut down or remove a tree because it poses a nuisance in one form or another. When this happens, you will need to know the best way to kill tree stumps after cutting down the tree.

If you do not kill the tree stump after cutting down the tree, the roots of the tree may survive and continue to grow, long after the tree has been cut down.

Tree stumps can be quite difficult to kill, and sometimes the process can take a long time. Luckily, there are many commercial products available from nurseries and garden centers, that can be used to kill tree stumps. There are also natural ways to kill a tree stump.

Best Way to Kill Tree Stumps

Killing a Tree Stump 

Tree Stumps

If you need to remove a tree from your garden, before applying anything to the tree stump to kill it, you need to ensure that any plants or trees in the surrounding area will not be harmed in the process. For this reason, I always prefer to use natural products that I apply directly to the tree stump in question. In this way, it is less likely to cause harm to the surrounding soil.

No matter which of the following methods you choose to kill your tree stump, please remember to wear protective gear to avoid a serious injury.

You should have protective goggles to prevent any wood chips from flying into your eyes and to prevent any harmful substances from spraying or splashing into your eyes, potentially causing serious chemical burns.

Wear a mask to avoid inhaling sawdust, which can damage your lungs and affect your breathing. Use thick gardening gloves to protect your hands.

Killing a Tree Stump with Epsom Salt

Best Way To Kill Tree Stump: Epsom Salt

Epsom salts are known to be one of the most effective substances to use and are probably one of the best ways to kill tree stumps. It is easily obtainable from most stores and is relatively cheap.

It is essential to use 100% Epsom Salts that have not been mixed with any other dry ingredients.

If the stump is an old stump, you will need to cut off the top layer with a saw. Try to cut the stump down as low and as close to the ground as possible.

You will need a drill and the thickest, longest drill bit that you can get. Drill holes all around the perimeter of the stump, a few inches apart. Also, drill holes all over the rest of the stump. The holes should be about 1 inch wide, and about 10 inches deep.

Often a tree, particularly if it is very big and very old, will have a root network above the ground, around the stump. Also, drill holes in any roots that are visible above the ground.

The next step can be done in two different ways. Both methods are said to be equally effective, but I prefer the first method.

Epsom Salts Method 1

  • In addition to drilling holes with a drill, you can use an ax to score a few deep gashes into the top of the trunk.
  • Fill all the holes with dry Epsom Salts and leave to stand for a few hours to allow the Epsom salts to settle.
  • Pour very hot water over the tree stump, allowing the water to penetrate the holes that you have filled with Epsom Salts. This allows the Epsom Salts to be drawn deep down into the stump, and to penetrate the roots deeply.
  • Repeat this process every 2-3 weeks for about 3 months. After this, the stump should start to disintegrate and you will be able to remove it fairly easily.

Epsom Salts Method 2

  • After drilling holes, as described above, pack the holes with dry Epsom Salts.
  • Take an unscented candle, light it, and allow the wax to drip into the hole on top of the Epsom Salts, effectively sealing the top of the hole with wax.
  • Leave the stump like this for about 8-10 weeks. The Epsom Salts should kill the entire stump and roots and you should now be able to remove it.

Killing a Tree Stump with Rock Salt

Best Way To Kill Tree Stump: Rock Salt

Rock salt is a completely natural product and is an environmentally friendly way to kill tree stumps. You will have to be patient, as it is not an instant fix, and can take a long time to work.

  • When you cut down the tree, cut it as close as possible to ground level. This is essential in order to ensure that the salt actually reaches the roots of the tree stump.
  • Using the thickest, longest drill bit available, drill holes at an angle around the sides of the stump, starting close to the top.
  • The holes should be about 1-1 ½ inches in diameter, and about 6 inches apart.
  • Pack the holes with rock salt.
  • If there are no other plants around the base of the stump, place little piles of rock salt around the base.
  • You will need a big pile of soil, enough to cover the entire stump.
  • Place a good mulch all over the soil.
  • Water the mulch and soil well. This will cause the rock salt to dissolve.
  • Continue to water every 3-4 days, for at least 6-8 weeks. If the weather is very dry and hot, you can water even more often. This will help the rock salt to penetrate the roots and eventually it will kill them.
  • If you see that new shoots are still sprouting, remove them and add more rock salt and repeat the process.

Killing a Tree Stump by Burning it

Best Way To Kill Tree Stump: Burning

If you need quick results, one of the best ways to kill a tree stump is by burning it. But you need to exercise extreme caution when using this method. Make sure that there is nothing nearby that could catch fire in the process. Have a fire extinguisher or a hosepipe at hand in case things look like they are getting out of control.

  • Drill holes in the stump
  • Pour kerosene into the holes, and leave it to stand for a few hours to penetrate fully.
  • Place some wood chips and other wood scraps on top of the stump.
  • Using a fire-lighter, set it alight. The stump should soon catch and start burning.
  • The stump may take a few hours to burn fully, but do not leave the fire unattended.
  • Once it has burned out completely, you can dig it out and remove the ashes.

Killing A Tree Stump By Suffocating It

Once a tree has been cut down, it may continue to grow if the roots are still receiving sufficient oxygen. One way to kill a tree stump is to cut off the oxygen supply to the roots.

  • Cut the stump down as low as possible.
  • Cover the entire stump with thick black plastic. Tie or tape the plastic very tightly around the base of the freshly cut stump.
  • The stump and the roots will eventually die and start to disintegrate, once they are being starved of oxygen. This may take as long as 3 months, so you will have to be patient.

Using Copper Nails to Kill a Tree Stump

Best Way To Kill Tree Stump: Copper Nails

If the stump is not very big, you may be able to kill it by knocking in a few copper nails. Copper contains elements that are harmful to plants and trees. If these elements are absorbed by the roots, the stump will eventually die. This method also takes a long time and is not a ‘quick fix’.

  • Cut the stump as low as possible.
  • Knock a few long copper nails in around the sides of the stump and into the top surface.
  • Leave the stump for about 2-3 months. The copper should eventually be drawn down into the roots, killing the stump.

Any of the above methods will successfully kill a tree stump. Which one you choose to employ depends on your level of patience, and the urgency with which you need to get rid of the stump.

For an instant result, burning is the best way to kill tree stumps, but if you are able to wait it out, I prefer to recommend using Epsom Salts.

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