Garden Advice

How to Kill a Tree Stump

Tree stumps take valuable space in your garden and you always have to go around them when mowing. Some people see them as a natural feature, but since you’re here, you most likely consider your stump an eyesore that needs to go away.

So, if you:

  • Have leftover stumps from trees cut down several years ago;
  • Are looking for an easy way to remove the stump without a grinder;
  • Wonder if there’s a chemical product that would kill the stump once and for all;
  • Wonder what’s the quickest way to kill a tree stump after you’ve chopped off the tree.

Then, read on. Here you’ll find different ways to kill a tree stump, learn how long it takes, and more.

Table of Contents:

Why should you remove a tree stump?

Besides aesthetics, there are more reasons you should remove the stump after the tree has been killed. These include:

  • Pests and fungi – Wood-boring pests such as carpenter ants, termites are naturally attracted to tree stumps. They can go onto your other plants and even potentially your home. Fungi, on the other hand, are dangerous if inhaled by unsuspecting playing children or pets.
  • Structural damage – the roots may continue to grow even after the tree has been cut. It is quite possible that eventually, they would reach your underground pipes in search of water and damage them.
  • Harder to remove – the longer the stump stays, the deeper the roots go, if they’re not dead themselves. This will make it much harder to remove the stump whenever you decide to do it.
  • Gardening choirs – it gets annoying after a while to always have to work around the stump, especially when you’re mowing.

How to kill a tree stump with Epsom or Rock Salt

If you’re not in a hurry to remove the tree stump right away, then consider buying either Epsom salt or rock salt. They’re both cheap and natural, but you need to make sure they’re pure and not mixed with other ingredients. Do not use table salt as an alternative as it is harmful to the nutrient balance of the soil. Note that it could take several months until you see results, regardless of the ingredient you’ve used.

  1. Drill holes into the stump and its roots – the holes should be around 3 cm (1.18 inches) in width and 20 cm (about 8 inches) in-depth. If you don’t have a drill, use a pickaxe and try to make deep cuts.
  2. Insert ingredients into holes – fill the holes with the product of your choice. Afterwards, seal the holes with melted candle wax. The wax will dry off and will keep the salts in their place until they’re doing their job
  3. Cover the stump with a non-porous material – a plastic tarp or a rubbish bag would suffice. The point is to cut the much-needed sunlight from the stump, so it wouldn’t regenerate whilst the salts destroy it.

How to kill a tree stump with controlled fire

Burning the stump shouldn’t be done without strict supervision. You need to have plenty of room around the stump, so nearby objects wouldn’t catch fire. Also, the stump needs to be completely dry; otherwise, the fire won’t even start. This method works better for old, preferably dead, stumps. Do make sure you have a fire extinguisher just in case. Also, depending on the size of the stump, the burning may take several hours.

  1. Drill holes – as with the previous tip, drill numerous holes each around 3 cm (1.18 inches) in width and 20 cm (about 8 inches) in depth. If you have a longer drill bit, use it. The deeper you go, the better.
  2. Pour kerosene in holes – be generous with the quantity. The stump needs to be fully saturated in kerosene; otherwise, the fire might stop before it reaches the roots.
  3. Start the fire – put scrap wood on top of the stump and light it up. Carefully monitor as the fire burns down the stump and add more scrap wood when necessary. Do not leave the fire unattended even for a little while.
  4. Dig out the ashes – when the burning has been successful, you should have only ashes left. Dig them out along with the stump roots and replace them with fresh soil.

A slightly safer alternative to kerosene is charcoal. Place it on top of the stump and light it on fire. It will slowly burn down through the stump.

How to remove a tree stump with a chainsaw

Chainsaws can cut a wide variety of plants, and tree stumps are no exception. Mind you, the blades should not touch the soil because they would get dull fast. Accidentally hitting a rock would likely result in the chain breaking. Also, it’s highly recommended you use safety equipment items such as a helmet, gloves and trousers. With that said:

  1. Remove any soil around the stump with a shovel or a pickaxe. Remove as much as possible, because you will need that extra room so the blades wouldn’t hit the soil;
  2. Start cutting from the ground level;
  3. Make an initial cut and insert the blade inside;
  4. Do not let the blade come out of the other side because it will hit the soil;
  5. Work your way around the stump until you make a full circle. Then you should be able to just grab it and put it away;
  6. Put soil back over and on the stump.

With this method, the roots will remain intact, but at least the stump will not be taller than your lawn. You should be able to safely drive your lawnmower above it without the machine getting damaged.

How to remove a tree stump by hand

If you have a small or even a medium-sized stump, you can remove it manually. Mind you, it will be hard work.

  1. Dig around the stump with the mattock’s broad end and clear it away. The point is to gain access to the roots;
  2. Turn the mattock and start chopping the roots;
  3. Work your way to the taproot and chop it off with your axe;
  4. Remove the stump and clear out any root pieces.

Need more tree surgery services? Check out our dedicated page.

How to kill a tree stump with chemicals

If you’re not into waiting and want to know how to rot a tree stump fast, then the answer is chemicals. The market is full of all kinds of stump killers containing glyphosate or triclopyr. Each of them has a specific set of instructions on how to apply. Still, you need to follow some basic tips to get the maximum result from your choice’s chemical.

  1. There are different products for different tree types, so make sure you have the right one.
  2. The best time to apply any stump killer is between autumn and winter. The sap rises during spring and early summer, that’s why those seasons are not recommended.
  3. Buy a small container. These kinds of chemicals have a short lifespan and unless you plan to kill multiple stumps, there’s no point in having too many products.
  4. Apply the product when the forecast doesn’t show rains in the upcoming days.
  5. Cover the stump in a protective sheet to make sure any rain won’t wash off the chemical.
  6. Glyphosate and triclopyr will not go to the soil after being applied to the stump and so won’t damage any nearby plant life.

How long does it take to kill a tree stump?

It usually takes about 4 to 6 weeks for a tree stump to be killed using chemicals or other ingredients. The tree type, size and environment are also contributing factors. Pine trees, for example, will decompose faster than hickory, because one is a softwood and the other hard.

The end result or your chemical treatments, be it with home ingredients or commercial ones, should look like this: the stump looking spongey and decomposed. When this transformation is a fact, you can easily chop it into pieces. If it’s still not decomposed enough, add more chemicals and wait another two to three weeks. If you’re tired of waiting and instead want to know how to kill a tree stump quickly, then…

Hire professionals

If you lack the free time or patience to get rid of your problem, then book professionals for stump grinding services. Fantastic Services works with experienced and fully equipped tree surgeons. With the help of a powerful stump grinder, they can cut and remove any stump both above and below the ground. The aesthetics and health of your garden will be ruined no longer.

Reach out today for our stump grinding services.


  • If you use natural or commercial killers, remember that it will take time until they kill the stump
  • If you use controlled fire, do not leave it without supervision
  • If you cut the stump with a chainsaw, be careful not to hit the soil, as that would dull the chain blades
  • If you have a small stump, you can remove it with muscle power and a mattock

Did you manage to remove your tree stump? What method worked best for you? Let us know by commenting!

Image source: Shutterstock / Mongkhon Pookpun

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x