Trump your Stump: 5 Ways to Defeat Stubborn Tree Stumps

Stumped: Image Source

Imagine you’ve found the ideal spot for that backyard structure (pergola, gazebo, swing) you just bought, but right in the middle ruining it, is a tree stump you’ve been meaning to get rid of for years. Well, this article will give you five ways to Trump your Stump and make that thing disappear.

First things first, you’ll want to consider what kind of tree stump you’ve got on your hands since this will impact how you remove your tree stump.  Typically, the roots of a tree will grow out in every direction from the trunk, and the distance will be equal to or greater than the height of the tree. This may not be the case if there is an obstruction, but you will want to plan for the greatest distance.

Different trees have different roots systems. For example, if you had an oak tree, it’s roots would be fairly deep, and it’d have a tap root that would run straight into the ground. This adds some serious difficulty to your work. Other trees like pine, have wider, flatter root systems that will make digging and cutting them a bit more straightforward.

Option 1: Hire a Professional to Remove the Stump ($$$)

If you have only one or two stumps that you’d like removed, your best bet would be to hire someone to take care of it for you. Most arborists charge $100-200 per stump, so even though it’s not cheap, it also will save you time renting equipment or finding a way to dispose of the stump.

Professional Stump Removal: Image Source

Option 2: Rent a Grinder ($$)

The next more comparatively costly option is to rent a grinder. This is a hefty machine, so you’ll want to be sure that you know how to use it and take all safety precautions. The rental shop you choose will be able to instruct you in both of these. Depending on the size of your stump, the grinder can work through it in as little as 30 seconds.

The grinder will chew through the stump using its carbide tipped teeth. This method can take the stump down to below ground level, so you’ll want to have some extra soil to fill in the hole that’s left behind.

Stump Grinder: Image Source

If you’ve got some time, energy and determination, then the next three methods are for you.

Option 3: Hand Digging ($)

This is where you’ll want to know what kind of tree you have, as mentioned above. If you’ve got a tree with deep roots, go ahead and find another method. For this job, the tools you’ll need are a shovel, loppers, a root saw, and a field hoe.

Stump Digging: Image Source

Working close to the stump, dig out as many roots as you can, lopping them as you go. Continue this as you reach more and more of the roots extending from the tree.  Cut the roots into manageable pieces so that you can either compost or discard them. Use the grub hoe to grab and extract the roots that are holding tight to the soil. This will also allow more roots to be exposed.

Once you’ve done as much as you can to remove and cut up the roots, then the stump should be much easier to dig up. Grab that shovel and see if it easily moves. If it does, then you can chop it up and compost it. If not, you may have a few more roots to untangle, so keep following the steps above until you can easily move the stump.

Option 3: Chemical Removal ($)

This method will take 6-8 weeks but will speed up the decomposing process quite a bit. You’ll need a 1” auger bit, some potassium nitrate, a hose, and an ax. Potassium nitrate can be found at your local garden store or through online retailers. The most common one is the Spectracide Stump Removal Granules, but there are several other brands available as well.

To start you’ll drill holes 8-12” deep into the stump, starting around the perimeter and working your way toward the middle with 2-3 inches between each row of holes. Next, drill holes into the side of the stump so that these meet with the ones you drilled on top, creating a 45-degree angle.

Once you’ve drilled, fill each hole with 2-3 ounces of potassium nitrate. Then, add water until it reaches the top of the stump. At this point, go grab yourself a nice cold glass of sweet tea because you’ve got weeks before anything significant happens.

After 4 weeks you may notice the stump softening and becoming spongy, so at this point, you can grab your ax and beginning chopping it up. The stump may need 2-4 more weeks before it’s really easy to break down with an ax, but keep with it until you’ve chopped through the whole thing.

Option 5: Burn the Stump ($)

There are some major considerations to take with this method: are you in an area where it’s safe to leave a stump smoldering for weeks? If so, what time of year is best to do this? Check with your local fire department to get solid answers before you begin.

If you’ve got the go-ahead, then grab a 1” auger bit and some kerosene or fuel oil. Similar to the chemical method, drill holes 8-10” deep around the entire top of the stump. Leave about 1” between each hole. Pour your fuel into the holes and over the stump. At this point you can either build a wood pile around the stump to ignite as well, or you can use some small starter wood to ignite just the stump. It will smolder for hours or possibly days, so keep an eye on it and keep it contained.

Once it’s burned, clear out the ashes; then you can follow the below method for filling the hole.

Filling the Hole

You’ve got a couple of options once the stump is removed:

  1. Fill in the hole with loam or sawdust. Eventually this will settle, so continue to fill in more until it’s level to the ground.
  2. Fill in the hole with topsoil, spread grass seed over the area, and then cover it with hay or mulch. Water it often and be sure that the grass is taking to the area.

With either option, you will have fresh space to do as you please, whether that’s pour a concrete patio for your pergola or have an open grassy area for that new swing set.

Once you’re done, congratulations are in order.  You’ve trumped your stump.

Stump Removal 05

Trumping your Stump: Image Source

So kick back, and enjoy your victory.

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