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How to Kill Oak Trees

By Tracy Morris ; Updated September 21, 2017

Even if you cut an oak tree down to the stump, that may not be the end of the tree. Trees continue to sprout from their stumps and even their root system as part of a fundamental survival strategy. But stumps can be tough to continue cutting. Although removing a stump can be a labor-intensive process, you can prevent sprouting by killing the stump.

Chip the bark from the base of the tree with an axe. This is a process called girdling. Girdling cuts off the flow of sap to the rest of the tree and slowly strangles it.

Cut down the tree at the base with the axe once it has died. To do this, make a V-shaped cut in the trunk of the tree near the base that extends one-third of the way through the tree. This should be on the side of the tree in the direction that you want the tree to fall. Then begin to cut through the trunk starting on the other side of the tree at a point above the tip of the V-shaped cut.

Drill a number of holes in the surfaces of the stump. The exact number does not matter, but the surface of the trunk should be riddled with holes.

Fill holes with saltpeter until full. Saltpeter will have a grainy texture, much like salt.

Pour hot water into the drill holes to dissolve saltpeter and cause it to soak into the wood. This kills the stump and encourages the wood to begin rotting.


Things You Will Need

  • Axe
  • Drill
  • Saltpeter

About the Author


Tracy Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Arkansas.