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How to Ring Trees to Kill Them

By Lee Weal
Ring-barking can prevent woods from becoming too thick.

Ring-barking is a method of killing a tree by creating a deep wound that deprives it of nutrients and water, thereby causing its slow death. Also known as girdling, ring-barking preserves the ecological balance in a forest. It takes many years for ring-barked trees to completely die. In the meantime, the trees can continue to serve as homes for wildlife and beneficial insects. Additionally, property owners may want to kill certain invasive tree species that grow too rapidly. The procedure is low-cost, can be performed quickly and requires few tools or manpower to accomplish.

Put on work gloves and protective eyewear.

Cut two parallel grooves approximately 3 inches apart around the circumference of the tree below the lowest set of branches. Special girdling tools may be available for rental but an axe or chainsaw is more cost effective.

Strip the bark in the area of the wound. Cut into the tree's outer bark and inner bark approximately 1 to 1-and-1/2 inches deep, depending on the size of the tree. Using a chisel or axe, chop downward in between the two cuts to strip away the bark.

Apply an herbicide to the wound to hasten the death of the tree, if desired. Herbicides inhibit the growth of sprouts that can develop from residual nutrients in the tree.

Monitor the tree for occasional sprouting below the wound and remove sprouts as they occur.


Things You Will Need

  • Work gloves
  • Eye protection
  • Girdling tool, axe, or chainsaw
  • Chisel (optional)
  • Herbicide (optional)


  • Girdle trees in spring or summer when trees are most vulnerable and bark is looser.

About the Author


Lee Weal began writing and editing online content as a corporate intranet administrator in 2000 and was also the publisher and editor of a monthly employee newsletter. Her articles specialize in children's issues and home improvement.