Removing a tree stump – instructions & alternatives such as planting

About every third house is an old building, and there are old trees in front of an old building. Which have to be felled at some point; because they have grown so high that the attic room can be used as a darkroom, or because they are so old that they can supposedly be pushed around. Most people let theirs develop – and they also have little desire to answer for trees that have fallen on passers-by, so the old tree is felled. A (thick) tree stump is left that you can remove, but not necessarily have to remove.

Does the tree really have to (and may) go?

Before you think about how to remove the stump, you should consider whether you absolutely need to do anything with the tree. Or whether this activity has to be cutting down the tree.

If the tree is only to give way because it supposedly looks old, this assessment should be based on knowledge of the expected age of a tree; not just that the tree “looks really old”. This can only be due to an unfavorable environment (with trees as with people). B. too little water in dry times or a fungal disease. That can be changed or treated. Perhaps the tree will be as fresh as a dehydrated person or a person damaged by environmental toxins after a drinking cure.

If the tree can no longer be helped, there is still an investigation to be made as to whether it can simply be felled. Whether this is allowed is regulated differently from state to state, the quickest way to get an overview by contacting the responsible authority. Always have the information given to you in writing, especially any agreements made with the exhaustion of discretionary leeway.

The thorough solution

When the tree is gone, the tree stump should also disappear, as quickly and as easily as possible.

Solutions that are as quick and as simple as possible can be achieved with special machines. This so-called root rat is a root hoe that is attached to the front of the excavator arm and which harnesses the full power of the excavator.

The root rat can be installed on most excavators in sizes up to 40 tons. With a special adapter, you can also attach them to the mini excavators offered by rental service providers. Numerous machine rental stations have excavators with the root rat on offer.

The root rat is said to be able to break down tree stumps very quickly. An oak stump 30 cm high and 90 cm in diameter should “become history” in under half an hour. Probably not necessarily with a private person on the excavator who has never practiced excavator precision work.

Unfortunately, the root rat has a very decisive disadvantage: the tree stump has to be in a place that you can reach with an excavator. In the back of the densely overgrown garden, this is often not possible at all. In theory, if a mini excavator just barely fits, it cannot be used in practice because it would leave a swath of devastation. The devastation that the root rat leaves behind should not be underestimated either. The tree stump is gone, the strongest side roots too, but the brute force used here already leaves a hole with earth, sand and kindling.

Worth a try

In any case, it is worth trying a call to the office in your community that is responsible for tree care. If you’re lucky, they’ll be nice enough to refer you to the city contractor who does dredging for the community.

He, in turn, is often so nice that he drives past you on a municipal assignment and takes out your tree stumps and takes them with him. For very little money, because he does not have to drive off, you just have to clarify in advance whether he can get to the trees with his vehicles / machines.

Mill away the stump

If the excavator cannot reach the stump, the next tried and tested method is to use a power tiller – a safe method whenever you hire a company to do this work.

Quite a few companies that are busy cutting trees between October and February have plenty of time from March 1st to September 30th. That is how long the nesting and breeding season lasts, and during this time no trees may be felled according to the nature conservation law. Her tree was also felled sometime between October and February, special permits cause effort and costs. But that doesn’t mean that the tree stump has to disappear immediately, so you can and should wait if you want a company to mill it out. Because in spring / summer arborists are underemployed. That is why they offer milling work on a special offer.

Take a look around the offers, with a bit of luck you won’t pay more than around $ 1 per centimeter of milled trunk diameter, plus some travel and, if necessary, disposal costs, which can be faster and cheaper than driving to the hardware store for a Mill for rent.

If you work well, you will reduce the costs further: As a rule, the tree stump should be milled away under the ground so that soil can then be applied and planted with shallow roots. Dig the tree stump as free as possible – if the man can start immediately with the power tiller, it really doesn’t take long to remove the tree stump underground.

Milling yourself

If you are an avid DIY enthusiast and enjoy the opportunity to work with heavy equipment, you can rent a tree grinder at your nearest hardware store. But be careful, you should have some practice with such devices, and operating a larger motorized tiller also takes a lot of strength.

Mostly, motorized milling machines are offered in different sizes, which you need, depends on the type and size of the tree stump, advice on site will help. To rent a stump grinder you have to calculate around 80, – dollars.

Remove the rhizome

With the tiller only the tree stump disappears, not its roots in the ground. The rhizome continues to hinder you, e.g. B. That you can plant here plants that develop deep roots. When a tree stump has been felled because an entire plot of land is to be created from scratch, the gardener who is willing to design often develops the ambition to remove as much of the old roots as possible from his future garden. After all, you don’t want to be slowed down in your creativity, especially not by a few old stunts in the ground.

You can get rid of large parts of the entire rootstock, even fairly quickly, if you are ready to spend the next time on the “garden fitness program”, spade, shovel and digging fork in hand.

The rule of thumb according to which the root area of ​​a tree is usually calculated gives you a clue as to what you are planning to do. The root area is the area of ​​the ground under the crown of the tree plus 1.5 m on all sides. For narrow-crowned trees or columnar shapes plus 5 m on all sides.

If you have cut down an old walnut with a 5 m crown, this area encompasses a circle with a diameter of 8 m, according to Adam Riese you can then dig up roots on 50.265 square meters. If it was a narrow-crowned poplar tree with a 2 m crown that clings to the ground far around it, the calculation results in an area of ​​113.097 square meters. Digging roots on such an area would probably not have been fun for a young Arnold Schwarzenegger either.

But maybe it was only a very small tree, and you have collected enough aggressions for extensive digging. Then, starting from the stump, you should dig along the main roots until they become thin as desired, and saw off the exposed roots at both ends with a root saw. Chop through the top with a root hoe, cut with pruning shears or an ax, depending on how stubborn the roots are.

So root by root, and when you have finished digging, invite a few strong friends over. With them together you can now pull the roots out of the ground, with bare arm strength and a spade, with the support of a hoopoe (double hoe) or a root hoe (the root rat without an excavator). Finally, it is the turn of the tree stump, which has now been freed of branching branches. A jack pushed under in the middle can work wonders here.

Completely natural disposal

If you manage your garden close to nature, you probably don’t feel like using one of the rather violent methods just described to remove the stump.

If you have a lot of horticultural patience, you can just let your tree stump crumble on its own. It is then gradually taken over by mushrooms that decompose it. You can accelerate this decay process by making multiple holes in the tree stump from all sides and from above with the drill. Then it will also get wet inside, mushrooms love moisture, they will colonize the stump faster and decompose faster.

You can also help by wrapping the tree stump in plastic wrap in summer. The climate below is a real mushroom paradise. The mushrooms then work a little faster. You can also help with the settlement itself. You can get a few tree fungi from the nearest forest and rub the tree stump with their fruiting bodies. This is how you transfer the spores to the wood.

Creative alternatives for natural gardeners

If you “dispose of your tree stump naturally” it will take a few years. At this time the stump can be useful:

  1. The tree stump as a supplier of food
    If it is a deciduous tree, it can be inoculated with mushroom spawn after felling, for example with oyster mushrooms. The tree stump supplies you with delicious and healthy mushrooms straight from your own garden.

You can find the mushroom spawn and instructions for inoculating the tree stump on the Internet. You should be able to harvest several kilograms of oyster mushrooms from a normal-sized tree stump.

  1. The tree stump as a garden decoration
    You can use the tree stump, which is slowly turning to earth, as a natural pillar. Position a planter for this, from which overhanging flowering plants such as Elfenspiegel, Deutzia or Dipladenia let their blossoms hang down.

Of course, it can also be a simple ivy that grows over the tree stump from the ground. It then grows over the ground around it and transforms the whole thing into a tiny green garden landscape.

  1. The tree stump as an art object
    A chainsaw wood artist can transform your tree stump into different figures. Other LandArt artists have completely different ideas on how to create a work of art from the natural material.

If you have an artistic streak yourself, you can of course get to work yourself. You don’t necessarily have to use the chainsaw to reshape your tree stump. You can move your tree stump on the body with foxtails of various sizes in peace. The chisel from the do-it-yourself cabinet and many other tools can also be used for carving. But there are also countless special wood carving tools. Passionate woodworkers with a weakness for beautiful tools will enjoy the selection.

More dubious methods

There are still some methods of tree stump removal propagated on the Internet that you – for the sake of yourself and your garden – should not approach or approach them with great caution:

  • “Just pull out” the tree roots with the gripper arm of an excavator: Brings a new garden design, but usually not the one you want, with deep and wide craters …
  • Blasting with dynamite: Good chance for gardeners to commit a criminal offense, associated with considerable costs when commissioning a company.
  • Destroy with chemicals: the chemicals sold for this purpose are harmful to health; if you light them up at some point, as is usually recommended, an almost unquenchable fire is created.
  • Fire accelerators such as denatured alcohol in the roots and set on fire: this will put your house in danger even faster.


There are several promising methods of removing a stump and as many of its roots as possible. Ultimately, it depends on your patience whether the removal will be expensive and / or laborious; Very relaxed gardeners completely forego the removal and use the time when the tree stump rots naturally for their own purposes.

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