How to Remove Stumps from Your Yard


Depending on the species, planting a tree can be a surprisingly pain-free process. With a little care taken to provide nutrients through fungi and watering, it’s easy to stimulate rapid growth for the coming year. It can therefore be frustrating to deal with the often difficult challenge of entirely removing a tree. Whether the tree is strangling your other plant systems with overly vigorous growth, too diseased to save, or simply needs to go in order to make space, it’s worth bearing these removal tips in mind.

Digging Out

An old standby, this technique is often used when the stump stands only a few inches above ground level. Possible, try and keep stumps at least a few feet above the ground to provide better leverage. A cutting mattock is the best tool for the job, letting you dig to the base of the stump, severing loose roots along the way. Dig down and cut the taproot, and there should be enough access space to pull the stump from the earth. Many opt to use a car in tandem with a mattock for added pulling power, and if space allows then it can be worth considering the extra force.

Grinding Away

When stumps are located near to walls and paths, tearing up the earth to get to the base of the stump may not be a viable option. For these awkward situations many choose to go with a stump grinder. A cutter wheel with carbide teeth grinds away at the stump to below the soil surface, until it’s largely destroyed. Some choose to burn out the hole with kerosene, but as long as you cover it with topsoil the stump should rot away out of sight and of its own accord.

Splitting Up

For smaller stumps, perhaps with a diameter no greater than ten inches, splitting can be a fast and effective method of removal. Simply cut away at the stump with an axe, or preferably a heavier maul, extracting sections of timber until only the roots remain. Smaller stumps can often be split straight down the middle, with both halves available to be removed instantly. The technique avoids the slow digging process, but can be quite exhausting when applied to larger stumps.

Natural Decay

Sometimes the easiest solution is to take no action at all, since the stump will rot away over time without any outside help. For anyone looking to speed up the natural process it’s easy to hasten results. Make sure the stump is close to ground level, and cover it with mulch or soil. Many elect to drill holes into the stump and insert nitrogen fertilizer into the gaps, encouraging the decay to start from within. Many retailers market stump removal chemicals to be left in drilled holes, rapidly decaying the stump. Always bear in mind that most of these pose a hazard to wildlife and humans, and should only be used with caution, and in private areas.

For whatever reason the plant needed to be felled, by bearing these tips in mind stump removal doesn’t need to be an overly laborious process.

From tree nurseries to tree felling, Tobias Arthur is an expert on planting and the environment. Currently collaborating with English Woodlands he hopes to expand his expertise while writing about his passion.

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14 Responses to How to Remove Stumps from Your Yard

  1. john Mahoney says:

    I hadn’t thought about grinding my stump away. I can see how this can be a good idea since it doesn’t involve much effort like digging it out. I can see how this can help you is you can find someone with the tools to do it. I would want to hire someone who can be efficient and fair.

  2. John Ferrell says:

    I like that you mentioned that the stump will decay on its own. I think that if you have a stump in your yard that you don’t want but it isn’t in the way of anything then you might want to just leave it where it is. I think that if you let the tree stump decay on its own then you might save money.

  3. Danni Black says:

    I like your tip about splitting up the stump when it comes to removing them. We have a few stumps in our backyard that we need to get rid of so we will have to keep these tips in mind. Hopefully, we can call someone in to do the job so that we don’t do any damage in the process.

  4. Baxter Abel says:

    I had no idea you could grind a tree stump away when it could potentially damage a nearby wall or foundation. I it usually better to hire a tree removal service to do tree removal that way or can you do it yourself? My family used a tree removal service recently and they had some damage to a nearby fence, I’ll have to do some research to see if they or the tree removal service is liable.

  5. Luke Smith says:

    I like your suggestion to use a stump grinder if tearing up the earth around the stump isn’t a viable option. I imagine that a stump removal service would probably be able to advise you on the best way to remove the it from your yard. My neighbor recently cut down a tree in his back yard and has been wondering what to do with the stump. I’ll have to recommend that he read your blog.

  6. Jerry Wilson says:

    thank you for posting this as I found it valuable and helpful. Do you think it is safe to grind the tree down and stump grind by using one of the methods above? or should I hire a professional. I just need it done as soon as possible.

  7. New Jersey Tree Specialists says:

    Great tips and options for removing a tree stump! Many people are unaware of the various methods for removing a tree stump, but I think you really covered them all and gave a good overview of what is involved with each method. Very helpful!

  8. Alise Harper says:

    I have a stump in my backyard and my kids keep tripping over it and hurting their feet. I like how you mention some removal tips to help remove the stump. I will definitely try these out, I would imagine if I am having trouble I can hire a tree service to help me remove the stump. Thanks for the information!

  9. Gregory Willard says:

    I have always known that you can grind a tree stump, but I had no idea that you can cut it away with an axe if it is small enough. We had to get a few stumps removed over the spring, and we didn’t know the best way to do it. Next time we will have to try it ourselves before we hire someone.

  10. Nash Rich says:

    I don’t know about the diffing out. I have tried to dig out smaller trees, and it’s hard work. Maybe I was doing it wrong or something. I thought the tip of drilling holes in it to help it decay faster was interesting. I would maybe try that because I’m kind of lazy. Thanks for the info!

  11. Sam Wilkins says:

    Grinding away sounds like a great way to remove a stump. There is a big stump in my backyard from the tree my husband just removed. I’ve been looking for ways to remove it, so I will suggest he tries this method. Thanks for posting!

  12. Aspen Bowen says:

    I like your idea to insert nitrogen fertilizers. That is a smart way to start the decaying process and make sure it’s thoroughly decayed. I need to remove a stump from my yard, I will try drilling holes and filling them with fertilizer.

  13. Kyle Ross says:

    These are some great tips, and I appreciate your advice about splitting small stumps. I planted a tree a couple of years ago, so it’s not very big yet, but unfortunately, it got a disease and needs to be removed. Splitting sounds like the easiest technique for this particular situation, so I’ll definitely try that out. Thanks for the great post!

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