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Tree Stump Removal Instructions

Tree stump removal can be a tricky and dangerous undertaking. The root system of an older tree can be very large, making it difficult to pull the stump free of the ground. A professional tree removal service can bring special equipment to deal with your tree stump, but this can be costly. With some planning, patience and caution, you can safely remove your unsightly tree stump without outside help and reclaim your yard.

Natural Decay

Allow the stump to decay naturally if there is no hurry or if you can camouflage it. This is the easiest, safest method of stump removal; also, if you leave a tall stump to rot naturally it will provide food and shelter for wildlife.

Speed the decaying process by cutting the stump as close to the ground as possible. Then cover it with soil and keep the area moist.

Drill five or six large holes at least one inch in diameter vertically down into the stump if possible. This will expose more of the wood and speed up the decaying process a bit.

Add a fertilizer with a high nitrogen content to the stump during the first year after tree removal. The organisms involved in decaying the wood during the first year tend to be limited by the amount of nitrogen present; the more nitrogen available, the faster they can break down the wood. However, don't add so much fertilizer that it burns nearby plants or grass.

Pour granulated sugar into the bored holes in the second year; the organisms involved in decaying the wood after the first year depend on carbon rather than nitrogen for fuel and sugar adds carbon to the area.

Fill depressions or holes that develop as the stump rots with topsoil.


Pull or dig out the whole stump; this process is called grubbing and is the fastest but most difficult method of getting rid of stumps.

Dig a trench around the stump one to two feet wide and one to two feet deep.

Cut the lateral roots with an axe or grub hoe; pry the stump to the side and cut through the taproot on trees that have one, such as hickory trees or pine trees.

Roll, drag or winch the stump from the hole. Stumps left from trees that were less than 14 inches in diameter may not be hard to remove, but large taprooted trees will present more of a challenge.

Leave a four to six foot stump when cutting large trees; a stump this height can be used for leverage to pull the stump away from the ground and root system.


Check your local fire ordinances before attempting to burn aboveground portions of a tree stump.

Build a temporary fence around the stump; a stump may burn for two to three weeks and the fence will help keep children and pets from coming in contact with the burning wood.

Dig a trench around the stump to provide a fire line that will help prevent the fire from spreading to wooded or grassy areas.

Remove the top and bottom from an empty five-gallon paint can and punch one-inch holes in the side and near the bottom; this will act as a stove to burn the stump more efficiently.

Place the stove on the stump or down over it on a smaller stump; build a fire inside the can and use charcoal to keep it burning. Move the stove to a new area of a larger stump when the first area has burned down.


Some types of trees have a tendency to resprout from the stumps. You can prevent new tree sprouts on the stump by spraying herbicide on it within 24 hours of cutting. Spray the herbicide around the perimeter of the stump, where the bark joins the wood.


Consider other options before choosing to burn your stump; a fire burning in a low-oxygen environment such as the underground areas of a stump will create charcoal that is almost impossible to decompose.

Never burn stumps near buildings or other flammable materials, or in situations where human safety may be threatened.

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