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.

The Author:

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.

26 thoughts on “How to Remove Stumps From Your Yard

  1. 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!

      1. Steven, thank you for reading! I’m glad the tips were helpful for you in removing the stump in your backyard. Best of luck with the removal process!

    1. Thank you Kyle for your comment! Splitting small stumps can definitely be an effective and easy technique. I’m sorry to hear about your tree getting a disease, but hopefully this method will work well for you in removing it. Good luck!

  2. 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.

    1. Thank you for your comment! Adding nitrogen fertilizers can definitely help speed up the decay process of a stump. I hope the drilling and fertilizing method works well for you in removing the stump from your yard.

  3. 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!

    1. Thank you for commenting! Grinding away can be a great option for removing stumps, especially larger ones. I hope your husband finds success with this method for the big stump in your backyard!

  4. 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!

    1. Thank you for your input! Digging out stumps can definitely be hard work, especially for larger ones. Drilling holes and allowing for natural decay can be a great alternative for those who don’t want to do the heavy lifting. Good luck with your stump removal process!

  5. 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.

    1. It’s great to hear that you found the article helpful! Cutting away smaller stumps with an axe can definitely be a DIY project if you have the right tools and experience. Good luck with your next stump removal project!

  6. I really like that you talked about digging out the stump. As you said, it is an old-school technique, but it really can work. However, there are some jobs that just can be done on your own. Do you have any other tips about finding someone to help you remove a tree or stump?

    1. I completely agree that some jobs are best left to professionals. When it comes to finding someone to remove a tree or stump, I recommend doing research and checking reviews before hiring anyone. It’s important to make sure they are licensed and insured as well.

  7. Thank you for your advice to leave a few feet of the tree order to provide for better leverage. We recently cut down a medium sized pine tree that had been growing in our front yard before we moved in a few years ago. We didn’t leave very much of a stump to use as leverage but I’m hoping that we will be able to find a professional who will have better equipment for removing short stumps than the tools my husband has at home.

    1. Leaving some of the tree stump intact for leverage is key when removing the stump yourself. However, for larger stumps or ones that are in hard-to-reach areas, it may be best to hire a professional with specialized equipment.

  8. This is some really good information about stump grinding. It is good to know that if the tree is near a walkway or wall that you should grind the stump. My father just bought a cabin in the mountains, and there are a few stumps hear the house. It seems like he should avoid pulling those ones out of the ground.

    1. Yes, grinding the stump is often the best option when it’s located near a walkway or wall. It’s important to avoid pulling stumps out of the ground in these situations to prevent damage to surrounding structures. It might be a good idea to have the stumps near the cabin removed professionally.

  9. Grinding away and splitting up are some great ways to remove a tree stump, especially when digging the stump out begins to be exhausting. Love your suggesting about letting the stump take its natural course, too!

    Overall, great tips!

    1. Thank you for all your positive comment on the stump removal article! We’re glad the tips were helpful for you.

  10. Thanks for the tips on how o remove a stump from your yard. I appreciate that you mentioned that if the stump is close to a wall or path stump grinding can be a good option. I have a stump that needs to be removed from near my house and I think it would be smart to call a professional to help me remove it to help make sure it can be done safely and correctly.

    1. We definitely recommend calling a professional to remove stumps near your house to ensure safety and proper removal.

  11. Thank you for describing stump grinding and how effective it is at clearing the yard for other projects. We’ve been trying to set up a patio for our house for the longest time, but there are a couple of stumps that are preventing our progress. We once thought of uprooting them, but that would be too damaging and too much of a hassle for us, so I’ll start looking for a stump grinding service to help us out.

    1. Stump grinding is definitely a great option for clearing the yard for other projects. We hope you find a reliable stump grinding service to help with your patio project!

  12. I had no idea that a stump removal process helps you easily eliminate unwanted stumps around your backyard. My friend plans to create an outdoor recreational space where he can host parties. I should talk to him about finding a stump removal company to smoothen his garden someday!

    1. Yes, stump removal definitely helps in creating a smooth and beautiful outdoor space. We hope your friend finds a good stump removal company to help with their project.

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