Trees are a fantastic addition to any garden. They help improve the air quality, conserve water, maintain humidity, preserve soil, and are valuable for their aesthetic value.
But sometimes, they grow too big, damaging your property or hindering your landscaping plans. In such a case, you might resort to cutting them.
The problem is the stubborn tree stumps left behind. Like zombies in a horror flick, they keep growing new limbs and branches even after hacking them multiple times.
Thankfully, there are plenty of methods to remedy this recurring hitch. Keep reading, and let me teach you how to stop a tree stump from sprouting for good!
Why Do Tree Stumps Grow Back?
But first, why do tree stumps sprout anyway?
This phenomenon has something to do with the plants’ natural root system. Naturally, the tree roots will continue to support the plant even after cutting.
If the roots have enough energy left, they’ll attempt to send offshoots above ground called suckers. These sprouts will absorb sunlight for photosynthesis and revive the plant.
Suckers can pop up around a mere weeks after you cut down the tree, which is astonishingly quick. And given time, the stump can even grow back into a full-sized tree!
Four Methods to Prevent Tree Stumps from Sprouting
Thankfully, there are methods you can use to not only remove the tree but to stop root and trunk sprouting. Below are four of the most effective ways to keep a tree stump from growing back:
1 – Stump-Killing Herbicide
One of the most effective ways to get rid of that pesky stump after tree removal is to use a stump-killing herbicide like this concentrated herbicide by Monterey (available on Amazon).
You’ll need to apply the herbicide right before you cut down the tree or within 30 minutes of taking the tree down. But if you have already performed the cut, you can get similar results by applying the chemical to the entire sawed-off area.
After application, the herbicide will seep down the stump and into the roots. What it does is it essentially poisons and kills the plant, which prevents further growth.
You don’t have to worry about using stump-killing herbicides, though. So long as you apply them correctly, the chemical won’t affect the soil or harm other plants and flowers in your garden.
That said, there are two types of herbicide: brush-on and spray-on. So, read the instructions and follow the manufacturer’s directions for your chosen brand of herbicide.
If you notice sprouts popping up here and there after your application, you can apply the herbicide directly to those sprouts. It’s common for some roots to be too deep for the stump chemical to reach them properly.
You can use a herbicide for broadleaf weeds as a more aggressive alternative. But if you can’t find that, try using a non-selective herbicide. This herbicide eliminates any vegetation that it comes into contact with.
Still, if you opt for this method, be sure you’re okay if another plant within the area dies. That can be a nasty surprise if you aren’t aware of the effects of a non-selective herbicide.
Most importantly, you must strictly follow the manufacturer’s directions with these herbicides. These are dangerous chemicals, and mishandling them can be hazardous to other plants and yourself.
Some herbicides can also damage the soil, affecting its fertility and killing beneficial organisms. So, if there are plants you wish to protect, take proper precautions before application.
Lastly, if you plan on planting in that area again shortly, pick a herbicide brand that’ll break down sooner rather than later to protect the soil.
2 – Deeper Chemical Use
Using herbicides can still result in sprouts popping up here and there, which can be frustrating. So, if you want a more effective removal measure, try applying stump-killing chemicals directly into the stump.
This method might take a few applications, but it is also one of the easiest ways to keep the tree from sprouting again. Here’s how you do it:
- First, drill several holes in the truck’s surface.
- The holes should be at least 8 inches deep, but the deeper you go, the better.
- After drilling, find a stump killer that is commercially available and then fill the gaps accordingly.
- Repeat the process every few weeks until the stump decays.
If herbicides are unavailable, you can try Epsom salt for the same purpose. Similarly, pour the salt into the stump’s holes. But spray a small amount of water to moisten the crystals.
Then, cover the stump with plastic to prevent the crystals from dissolving from rain.
As with the stump-killing herbicides, take precautions when using these. Read manufacturer warnings and directions before doing anything because it can be potentially hazardous.
Highly concentrated Epsom salt is deadly to plants due to its high magnesium content. It’s an effective way to kill stubborn stumps in your yard, but it can potentially spread into other plants and trees near the stump.
So, as with any chemicals, take the proper steps to keep yourself safe during this process. Wear protective gear and keep the stump-killing products out of reach for children or pets.
3 – Stump Grinder
It’s typically a last-ditch effort as it can tend to be a bit more expensive to rent a stump killer than to buy a few chemical herbicides. Still, a stump grinder can be a very effective measure for removing those resilient stumps from your yard.
A stump grinder is quite expensive, costing an average of $270 per day to rent. It’ll also take substantial work to get the job done. So, keep those in mind if you prefer this method.
As with herbicides, you will want to go above and beyond with safety measures.
Herbicides are dangerous in their own, different ways. But a stump grinder can be extremely dangerous if treated with anything less than the utmost care and attention.
Before you take the equipment off the rental property, make sure that the dealer shows you each of the controls as well as the safest way to operate the machine.
Learn how to turn the machine off quickly in cases of emergencies. Practice machine controls, such as proper throttles, handle adjustments, braking, and more.
It’ll take some extra time, but learning proper operations will go a long way to protect yourself.
Continuing with the safety directive, use proper eye and hearing protection. Goggles shield your eyes from stump debris, while an earmuff protects your hearing from loud machine noise.
Once you’re confident enough to start, follow these steps:
- First, adjust the handle to suit the stump’s height.
- Keep the grinder several inches above the stump for better maneuvering.
- After positioning, use the brakes to lock the machine in place.
- Once locked, start the engine and slowly lower the grinder on the stump area.
- Using its level, move the grinder side to side to shave the wood until you achieve your desired height.
You’ll likely need to move the grinder several times to grind the entire stump. In this case, you’ll have to release the brakes, move the machine forward, and lock the brakes again.
You can grind the stump until the stump is around a few inches below ground level. Once done, turn the device off and fill the hole with topsoil to even out the area.
Here’s another important note:
Remove any rocks near the base of your tree stump before you begin grinding the stump. Not only are rocks other potentially dangerous projectiles, but they can damage the equipment, too.
The very last thing that you want is to damage the stump grinder. Replacing a damaged or broken stump grinder can be quite expensive on top of your rental fee.
You can also make the entire process more painless with a chainsaw. Use your chainsaw to cut the stump down even further. The closer you can get to the ground, the easier it should be to feed the rest into the stump grinder.
4 – Burning the Stump
Be very careful if you use this method. It should go without saying that fire is dangerous and not to be taken lightly.
To avoid legal issues, check out the local ordinances in your area to see if burning stumps is even permissible. You don’t need any fines for trying to remove that stump!
If burning the stump is okay, follow these steps:
- Start by drilling a few 8 to 10-inch deep holes into the stump.
- Then, clear the tree debris inside the holes and set them aside.
- Next, it is time to scoop some potassium nitrate into the holes.
- When this is complete, fill the gaps with hot water to dissolve the potassium nitrate and distribute it throughout the stump.
- Once done, take the scrap wood you dug out of the holes earlier, light it on fire, and place it inside the holes.
If you find burning using this method difficult or can’t find potassium nitrate, you can use kerosene for a more straightforward approach.
Here’s how you use kerosine to burn a tree stump:
- Drill 8 to 10 inches holes into the stump.
- Clear any debris and fill the voids with kerosene.
- Leave the stump overnight to let the kerosene seep into the wood’s grain.
- If you’re dealing with a large stump, repeat the second and third steps for a few days to soak the wood.
- Finally, put a generous amount of charcoal over the stump before lighting it.
Burning tree stumps takes time, so don’t let the stump out of your sight. It could take a few hours or days to burn a stump completely, depending on its size.
Fire is unpredictable. Leaving the stump untended could allow the fire to spread without your knowledge.
On that note, clear any flammable debris around the stump before burning. Rake away dried leaves, branches, or weeds surrounding the area to reduce fire risks.
You can also consider installing a chicken wire around the stump for more safety. This trick will prevent animals or children from approaching the burning material.
When the stump has thoroughly turned to ash, you can remove it. Use a shovel to get rid of the ashes and remaining charcoal.
Tips to Prevent Trees from Growing Back
Tired of seeing offshoots from tree stumps? Here are some tips you can follow to avoid this hitch in the future:
Cut the Tree Low
The primary reason trees sprout back after cutting is the cutting method. You might have trimmed the tree high above the ground, leaving a long stump.
To prevent a stump from growing, cut the tree as low to the ground as possible. As a general rule, keep the stump shorter than a ruler, which is 12 inches long.
The shorter the wood material, the less energy it has on its roots to attempt sprouting shoots.
Apply Nitrogen Fertilizer
Another excellent trick is using nitrogen fertilizer on a tree stump.
See, fungi and bacteria will latch on the stump after you cut a tree. These microorganisms feed on decaying wood, which makes them helpful for this purpose.
Adding nitrogen fertilizer attracts these microorganisms. As such, sprinkling the fertilizer around the stump or drilling it into the wood will help quicken its decomposition.
Keeping a yard neat and clean can take a lot of work. Keeping the grass trimmed, the flower bed tended to, and a million other things can go into making your outdoor space look precisely how you want. On top of that, you’ll need to tend to the pesky tree stumps, too.
But there are plenty of ways to get rid of those zombie trees. It depends on how much work you want to put in and how effective the method you plan on using is.
You can use herbicides and apply them on the stump to kill it. Or, use straightforward methods like a stump grinder or burning it with potassium nitrate and kerosene.
If you want more backyard tips, including recipes, how-tos, and more, make sure you subscribe to my YouTube channel.
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
If you want more backyard tips including recipes, how-tos and more, make sure you subscribe to my youtube channel