Privet hedges are widely planted in urban areas as borders and boundaries. They are nearly indestructible and will re-grow even when cut down to ground level. In order to completely remove an unwanted privet hedge, it is necessary to remove the root system as well. Privet is a tough, resilient shrub that will send up shoots from the smallest bit of root in the soil. Due diligence for the rest of the growing season should eradicate any small suckers that might grow from these portions of roots that were inadvertently missed during the removal process.
Preparation for Removal
Spray the privet hedge with a systemic herbicide in spring, after the leaves are fully open. Allow the herbicide to work for 10 to 14 days before you start the removal process. The application of herbicide will greatly increase the chance that any roots that remain after you remove the hedge will not grow. The waiting period will give the herbicide time to work its way through the hedge's system to the majority of the privet hedge's roots.
Trim off branches where they are growing out from the main trunk with pruning clippers.
Cut off the main trunk about 6 to 8 inches above ground level with a hand pruning saw.
Options for Removal of the Privet Hedge
Dig out the stumps using a shovel. Dig out the individual privet shrubs that make up the hedge one at a time. Drive the shovel into the ground about 18 to 24 inches out from the main trunk of one privet shrub plant on either side of the hedgerow. Make two more passes, driving the shovel deeper into the ground with each pass. The object is to dig down deep enough to be able to insert the blade of the shovel underneath the shrub's main root ball. At this point, push down toward the ground on the shovel's handle to loosen the root ball. Use an ax, if necessary, to further break up the roots for easier removal. Fill in the void left by the stump and roots with fresh soil.
Pull the stumps out using a special stump removing tow chain and towing vehicle. Remove the stumps of the shrubs that make up the hedge one at a time. Attach the chain to the stump by inserting the prongs of the tow chain directly into the wood of the stump about 2 inches above ground level. Attach the other end of the chain to the axle of the towing vehicle. Tighten the slack in the chain between the stump and the towing vehicle by driving forward a few inches. Gradually accelerate the towing vehicle until the stump pops out of the ground. Add topsoil to the area where the stumps and roots were growing to avoid the creation of a low spot at the site.
Grind down the remaining stumps with a portable mechanical stump grinder. These mechanical grinders are available to rent at rental centers. Following the manufacturer's instructions for use, place the stump grinder over an individual stump, secure it to the ground and allow it to grind the stump into wood chips. Repeat with the remaining stumps. To keep mushrooms and other fungi from growing on the rotting underground wood chips, remove them and use as mulch or compost elsewhere in your garden. Use a shovel and/or ax to remove smaller roots not addressed by the mechanical stump grinder. Fill in the area with additional topsoil to a level slightly above grade so a low-lying area does not form in your yard.