Removing a stump - effective and unsuitable methods

Removing a stump - effective and unsuitable methods

What methods are suitable for removal?

The most effective solution is to dig up the old stump by hand. Anyone who has neither a mini excavator nor a winch is faced with an arduous task. Trees with shallow roots can be exposed with relatively little effort. If it is deep-rooted such as fir trees, it usually takes several hours. The job will be made a little easier if you just dig up the upper part of the root system and cut the roots with a chainsaw.

also read

  • Removing tree stumps without digging up - helpful tips
  • Green a tree stump decoratively
  • Moss in the flower bed - effective methods of removal

You can invest some money and hire a horticultural company to come up with a stump grinder. But it can also be done without digging. Chemistry can effectively kill tree stumps. However, the agents are harmful to the environment and not suitable for use in your own garden. You can also naturally accelerate the rotting process of the tree stump on the spot using biological means.

by handhardly any root remains in the soillaborious, tools necessary
with chemistryefficient and fastenvironmentally harmful
biologicalharmless to nature and healthlengthy process
Hire a companydone quicklyexpensive


tree stump removal

Potassium nitrate, which is sprinkled into the wood as granules, serves as a decomposition accelerator. The decomposition time can take between three and twelve months, depending on the size of the tree and the type of wood. Compared to natural rotting, chemical agents save a lot of time. Since these products have a negative impact on people and the environment, you should think about alternatives. Children and pets should stay away from the stump after treatment. Damage to health can occur if inhaled.

This is how the remedy is used:

  1. Drill holes in the tree stump
  2. Sprinkle powder in the holes
  3. Watch tree stump
  4. if it is soft enough, the wood can be chopped up
  5. Repeat application if necessary

Mechanical aids

If you don't have an excavator to hand and want to remove the stump without a grinder, patience and muscle strength are required. Smaller stumps can be removed with manual methods. For large root systems, consider alternatives. After getting the stump out of the ground, you should fill the hole with sawdust or clay. The material will settle in the coming weeks, so you will need to add fresh substrate regularly.

Shallow rootsSpruce, birch, chestnut, hazelnut, cherryDig up and cut roots
Deep rootsOak, walnut, fir, pinework with a stump grinder
Heart rootLarch, hornbeam, maple, gingkoRinse with a high pressure cleaner (€ 85.90 at Amazon *) and remove with a jack

Milling machine

Stump grinders are ideal for removing root systems that grow to a depth of 30 centimeters. These can be rented in hardware stores. Stump cutters work hydraulically and shred tree stumps and roots by rotating a knife disc. The device is placed over the tree stump so that the cutting knives gradually mill off the wood and work it into small pieces. Finally, the wood remains are removed. You can reuse the substrate as mulch (€ 213.00 at Amazon *).

With ax, shovel and jack

This method is only suitable for shallow-rooted trees, as you cannot completely expose the root system of deep-rooted trees. Use a shovel to dig up the large roots and cut through them. Depending on the thickness of the roots, you will need an ax, pruning shears or a root saw to cut through.

With a special root hoe, you can tear the underground runners out of the ground more easily. After all the roots have been severed, you can get the stump out of the hole. It is easier if you place a jack in the middle under the stump and lever it out.

Cable winch or hand cable

With these tools, you can easily remove stumps from deeply rooted trees. Again, you have to expose some roots first so that the tree stump loses its hold.

The winch is placed around the roots of a tree and attached to a stable object. That could be a tree standing nearby. Then the rope is put under tension so that the tree stump moves slowly. Continue processing the stump with an ax and spade. Expose and cut off roots until you can pull the root system out of the soil.

Cable pull facts:

  • Steel cable with at least one ton of tensile force is necessary
  • Cable pulls with a pulling force of two tons are common
  • Lever mechanism facilitates operation

high pressure cleaner

A pressure washer is ideal for exposing roots and loosening heavily ingrown tree stumps. This method is particularly recommended for large trees with particularly tight roots. However, you will need large amounts of water to wash away the soil. It also creates sludge, which you then have to remove with a shovel and wheelbarrow. You can pull the tree trunk out of the hole with a winch or jack.


tree stump removal

Tree stumps are left in the forest so that nature can do its work. Moss, bacteria and fungi remove the stump naturally. However, this process takes up to ten years. You can help and accelerate the decomposition process with fertilizers. With regular use, the stump will decompose after a year. Drill enough holes in the tree stump and fill them with the appropriate substances.

Suitable fertilizers:

  • Compost : microorganisms colonize the wood
  • Calcium cyanamide : supplies microorganisms with important nutrients
  • Yeast : accelerates decomposition and produces heat


Burning out old root systems only works superficially, because fire needs oxygen and therefore cannot penetrate to the roots. Nevertheless, the tree stump is severely damaged and the subterranean root remains are gradually decomposed by microorganisms. However, wood residues that are covered with a layer of ash rot badly.


Cut several slots in the tree stump to make a recess. Fill the cavity with the sawed-out pieces of wood and layer paper between the wood. This way you can light the fire easily. Pay attention to the wind direction and repeat the burnout if necessary so that the stump does not burn on one side. Alternatively, you can arrange larger logs around a higher tree stump so that it is in the center of the fire.


What you should do without

Do not use the so-called root ex method, in which mixtures of saltpeter or sodium nitrate and petroleum are burned. The substances cause a smoldering fire. If used incorrectly, petroleum can contaminate the soil. In addition, this method creates a lot of smoke and not only endangers the environment but also health. Alternatives with diesel or fuel paste are also not recommended.

Caution is advised:

  • Observe municipal regulations
  • do not use fire accelerators
  • Pay attention to the surrounding vegetation

Kill with salt

tree stump removal

If the stump is still alive and tends to sprout, you can kill it with salt. Table salt is unsuitable for this method, as it not only damages the tree stump and its roots, but also endangers the surrounding soil.

Drill holes 8 to 12 inches deep in the stump, making sure they are evenly distributed. Fill the holes with salt and leave some space on top. Then drip candle wax into the hole so that it is sealed. Cover the stump with an opaque plastic sheet so that the stump dies faster.

Suitable salts:

  • Rock salt
  • Epsom salt
  • Epsomit


Use pure salt without additives, as these can endanger soil organisms.

Ineffective and unsuitable methods

Time and again there are adventurous tricks for removing tree stumps that you should better avoid. Some measures damage the soil and the organisms living in it.


Chemical clubs such as hydrochloric acid are highly hazardous to the environment because they cause protein denaturation and kill microorganisms. Such means not only ensure that the tree stump is killed, but also prevent future plant growth.

Copper sulfate

Copper sulfate is a substance that is used to kill bacteria and is said to accelerate the rotting process of tree stumps. The duration of action is between three and twelve months. Since copper sulphate has a highly toxic effect on microorganisms and is a major threat to water, it is not recommended to use it in the garden.


Blue water nails

Blue nails are considered a secret weapon for removing a disruptive tree. Inside the tubes there is a solution of copper sulfate and water with a blue color, into which a copper nail has been inserted. This combination is said to maximize the toxic effects of copper. The effect on the tree is highly controversial. What is certain, however, is that the solution is harmful to the environment and can endanger water.

Copper nail

Copper nails damage the tree stump, but do not ensure that it dies completely. The amounts of copper are too small to damage the wood. Several nails made of copper, lead, iron, and brass were hammered into trees in the 1970s. The wood reacted to copper and discolored the wound. However, the trees did not die as a result.

Alternative: tree stump as a garden decoration

Unearthed tree roots do not necessarily have to be disposed of or burned. They are interesting decorative elements in shade beds or heather gardens. If you have no way of getting the tree stump out of the ground, you can also integrate this decoratively into the garden.

This is how you can use the tree stump:

  • Stand for bird bath
  • Location for planted flower bowls
  • Support for climbing plants
  • Feeding place

A tree stump can be used decoratively and beautify the garden.

Plant stump

tree stump removal

Hollow out the stump with a hammer and chisel and seal the wood so that moisture cannot penetrate later. Tree resin or linseed oil is suitable for this. You can then fill the cavity with soil and insert the plants you want.


Many plants colonize rotting wood. If you do not use the sealing, you can plant the tree stump with shamrocks or wild orchids.

frequently asked Questions

Why does a stump have to be removed?

The root system of deciduous trees lives on after they have been felled, so that new shoots arise. The roots continue to grow, so that supply and drainage lines or old masonry are at risk. The remaining roots are also able to lift paving stones. The root system of shallow-rooted trees takes up space, so you cannot create a bed or sow lawn in this area.

Do I have to pay attention to something if I want to remove a tree stump?

You don't need a permit to remove a stump. However, there are rules about clearing trees. In Germany trees are not allowed to be felled between March 1st and September 30th, as birds breed during this time. There is no prescribed period for removing stumps. However, you should weigh the methods against each other. It is not allowed to make a fire in the garden everywhere. Find out more from your local authority, as each state has its own regulations.

How can I remove my lilac with tree stump?

Lilac has a strong tendency to shoot roots, which is why you have to remove the roots as completely as possible from the ground after felling. When felling, leave 100 to 150 centimeters of the trunk and then cut off the root area with a spade. This should be as large as the former crown diameter. You can then loosen the root ball with a digging fork. Move the trunk in all directions to loosen the roots in the substrate. With large trees you have to cut the roots. Then you can pull the tree stump out of the earth.

How can I remove a stump from a willow tree?

Saw off logs above ground to about 100 centimeters above the ground. Then dig up the roots so that the main roots are exposed. The root strands are completely severed. You can then pull the tree stump out of the ground with a hand cable.

Have a company remove the stump - what does it cost?

On average, you should expect a workload of two hours, although this depends on the size of the tree stump. The companies also charge travel costs, which is why you should hire companies in your area. Also keep in mind that disposal by a company costs between 50 and 80 euros. There are no disposal costs when working with a grinder because you can use the material as mulch. Get offers from different companies to get the lowest price.

Average hourly labor cost:

  • Excavation with an excavator: 70 to 80 euros
  • Removal with the stump grinder: 90 to 110 euros