Removing a stump without heavy equipment can be backbreaking work. Axes, picks and pry bars are the tools required, along with at least a day’s hard work. Using chemical applications makes stump removal an easier (although slower) process. Epsom salt is the best substance to remove a tree stump if it is in your garden or lawn, since it enhances the quality of your soil.
Why Epsom Salt?
After a tree has been felled, the root network will continue to feed the stump. A living stump will not rot and may grow new shoots. Epsom salt (or magnesium sulfate) is hygroscopic, which means the crystals absorb water. In sufficient quantity, Epsom salt pulls moisture from the wood, which then kills the tree.
There are many substances that could be applied to a tree stump to kill it, but Epsom salt has advantages over other stump removal chemicals. Rock salt or caustic lye would dry out the wood, but high sodium levels could make it difficult to replant after the stump has been removed. Commercial stump removal preparations contain potassium nitrate, which aids decomposition but does little to kill a living stump. Epsom salt kills the stump while improving the surrounding soil by adding magnesium and sulfur; plants require both for chlorophyll production.
Drill holes in the top of the stump with a one inch spade bit. The number of holes you will drill is dependent upon how large the stump top is--start your holes three inches from the perimeter of the stump and keep them three to four inches apart until you run out of room. Bore the holes as deeply as you can--at least eight inches into the base of the stump. Pour 100 percent Epsom salt into the holes and add enough water to moisten the salt. This moisture will carry the salts into the cells of the tree, drying them out. Then use a mattock or grub hoe to uncover as much as the root structure as you can. Pour a thick layer of Epsom salt on all exposed roots to prevent to roots from carrying moisture and nutrients to the base of the tree.
Larger stumps may take a month or two to die, so plan to reapply the Epsom salt every three weeks. Brittle, dark wood is dead; while soft, light wood will require another application of Epsom salt. A dead stump will decompose naturally, though you can speed the process by adding a high nitrogen fertilizer to the bore holes and around the base of the stump.