How to Remove a Tree Stump

Learn how to properly remove an old tree stump from your yard with these simple tips and instructions.

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Old Tree Trunk

Removing tree stumps is no easy task. In the old days, farmers use to burn them out or they relied on horses or oxen to pull them out. Today you can buy chemicals that are designed to rot the stump, but in most cases they're toxic and can take months and months to actually complete the process.

If you have a stump that's relatively small, you may be able to remove it by digging it out. However, you might be surprised by how much effort and how many tools are required for the job. So when faced with a large stump, call in a professional stump grinder.

When hiring a professional, consider the cost of the services provided. How do the professionals determine their charges? "We base the price by the inch," says arborist Adam Balogh. "Measure the widest part of the stump. Multiply that by the price for homeowners or contractors." Also, when looking for a professional stump grinding service, request and check references.

The harder the wood, the easier it is to grind. For instance, oak is one of the easier trees to grind even though it's one of the densest woods. This is because the chip size is very small. The softer the wood, the bigger the chip size. This also makes a big mound of chips. However, even if the stump was small in size, the mound of chips may be quite large. That's because it's fluffed full of air. Letting it sit for a few days will allow the air to escape and compression to occur.

However, just because the dust has settled doesn't mean it's time to spread the grass seed. As the chips decompose, they suck the nitrogen from the soil around them, leaving an inhospitable growing environment. Give the freshly mulched chips time to decompose. Move them to the compost pile and allow it to sit for a year. Add some blood meal to it to facilitate the decomposition process.

Once the chips have been removed from the area and you're ready to replant, it's important to remember that what was growing in this area before may not be suited to grow here now. For instance, the lawn underneath a large shade tree was primarily fescue. But now that the tree is gone, Bermuda grass is the better option since it's now in full sun. Plants that were once planted underneath the shade tree may need to be relocated to another shady area in the yard and replaced with plants that tolerate more sun.

Keep in mind that even though you've taken the mulched load of chips from the stump to the compost pile, the tree may not necessarily be gone for good. It may come back from the roots. If the tree was located in a grassy area, a mower can take care of keeping any new growth cut back. Otherwise you can dig out certain pesky roots and cut them away with pruners. It's possible for the stump grinding service to chase the roots. But this process can be quite labor intensive and costly, and it can make a mess of your lawn. A tree's root line typically extends quite a few feet beyond its drip line.

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