Are You Stumped?

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Getting Rid of That Stump

Tree stumps have posed a problem for American homeowners since the early pioneer days.

Back then, some stumps were so big that farmers had to use two or three horses to pull them out. If someone asked a settler if he had cleared his land, he might answer: “Nope. I’m still stumped.” (Meaning, he didn’t know how to get rid of the tree stumps.)

Today’s homeowners have a variety of options when it comes to removing unsightly tree stumps. Professional removal is the most effective method, but there are a few techniques do-it-yourselfer’s can employ, particularly for smaller stumps.

Dig and Cut

The dig-and-cut method is a two-step solution:

  1. Dig a large trench around the stump.  The trench must be wide enough and deep enough to accommodate a chainsaw. (Hint: The larger and deeper the trench, the easier and more effective the removal  process will be.)
  2. Then cut the stump with a chainsaw as low as possible.  Be sure to cut any visible roots to prevent future growth.  Afterwards, fill in the trench and re-sod, if necessary.


Chemicals are another way to get rid of tree stumps in your landscape. Removal products commonly include chemicals such as nitric acid, potassium nitrate, and sulphuric acid, which are designed to rot the tree stump. Their downside, however, is they typically an average of four to six weeks to work.

Before applying the chemicals, you should first remove all new growth sprouting from the stump. If the stump is old, drill a series of holes into the stump and apply the chemicals in these holes. For granular products, pour the granules into the hole and then fill each hole with water.

Also, a great deal of care  must be taken when using these chemicals, as failure to do so can be detrimental to your landscape.  (Be sure to keep people and pets away from the chemicals, as they can be toxic.)


Another removal method is composting.  This process involves keeping the stump consistently moist, while adding a little bit of nitrogen fertilizer to induce fungal growth.  Once the it’s decayed, the wood can be removed.

Composting is the preferred method used by garden experts who favor the natural approach. The folks at Tree offer the following directions:

Step-by-Step Directions for Rotting a Stump

  1. Drill holes into the stump using a wood-boring spade bit and extender. The holes should be eight to 10 inches deep and drilled at a 30-degree angle.
  2. Use a scoop or trowel to fill the holes with a high-nitrogen substance, such as  blood meal, fresh manure or compost.
  3. Pour hot water into each hole. Keep pouring until the nitrogen source is either dissolved or soaked.
  4. Use your shovel to chip off pieces as the stump gradually softens. When the stump is gone, fill the hole with dirt as needed.

What About Burning?

Another option which is fairly common (and often promoted via YouTube videos) is burning. This method is dangerous, as it requires using some type of fire accelerant, and is not recommended. It’s also very time-consuming — smoldering tree stumps must be continually monitored over many hours.

The Most Effective Method

Grinding is the most effective method to remove stumps from your property. (The harder and denser the wood, the easier it is to grind.)

If you choose to rent a stump grinder, bear in mind that these machines can be extremely dangerous, so take proper safety precautions:

  1. Wear sturdy work boots, long pants, gloves and goggles. And do not go near the base or blades whenever the stump grinder is turned on.
  2. Carefully inspect the area around the stump and remove any rocks and sticks that could fly up from under the blades.
  3. When removing the stump, be sure to follow the instructions that came with your rented grinder.
  4. Better yet, leave the stump grinding to the professionals! Call The Tree and Landscape Company at (307) 732-3986; we’ll take it from there!

Or…Embrace It

Alternatively, you can incorporate tree stumps into your landscape. Check out these creative options, courtesy of Bob Vila:

“The Best (and Weirdest) Things You Can Do with a Tree Stump”



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Chicago Tribune


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