Lawn Warriors: Cutting Tool Advice

I have some kind of weed “bush” that grows wild like a forsythia (sans flowers and scraggly leaves). I cut it down to the ground, but I really want to dig the roots out. I have dug out all around (but this pest is up against my mailbox) exposing a root “manifold” (my words) like medusa’s head. A tangled mess that has a few main, thick roots that go deeper. It feels like I could almost pop out this root ball, but I can tell the shovel handle is at risk of breaking. I am even using a rock as a wedge to gain leverage which has helped get me this far. Is there any tool I can possibly cut this thing out with? (I understand chain saws do not like dirt on the chain, even if I could get in there with a chain saw.) Your thoughts?

Follow-up — Here’s my thought, if a chain saw could take some punishment: I would hold the chain saw vertical and cut open more of the hole, as needed. Then, I would hold the chain saw at a steep angle (just off the vertical) to rub up against the problematic root until I wear it down to the point where it will cut or break. Is there such a cutting tool that can dig in the dirt without a problem, even if i have to rent something?

A stump grinder could do it, but that might be overkill for this project.

Can an electric reciprocating saw take some punishment (outside of making the blade dull)?

IME most reciprocating saws are built to take punishment. You could always pick up a cheap one just for this job, not worrying if it gets too damaged.

Importantly for this job, you can get pruning blades for reciprocating saws that will make quick work of anything non-metallic.

As I’m re-reading the description of this thing, I’m wondering if you could pull it out? Did it out as you describe, but after you’ve exposed the root “manifold”, wrap a heavy cable or tow chain around it, attach it to the back of a convenient pickup truck, and simply yank it out. Some of the deeper roots will likely remain, but if you fill the hole in and keep an eye out for any suckers and quickly treat them with a good brush-killing herbicide like Crossbow, it should work.

The pruning blades for the recip are great for wet wood. But they are very thin and long so go carefully. And I don’t think they are available in carbide tip. As I recall the better ones are flame hardened.

A coarse tooth carbide tipped demolition blade would be my choice. I also favor a blade type mattock for underground work.


Blast it out! Everything is more fun with explosives.

I’d go with the recip saw. Done this exact job in the past with my Milwaukee. Course blade.


I would either go with dynamite, or a Case 580 K backhoe. The Case since my neighbor/friend has one.

Seriously, could you rent a small Track hoe? They are very maneuverable, & almost as much fun as dynamite.

Go to Harbor Freight and get one of these and a pack of these and you’re in business for around $38.

Hatchet to sever the big roots, then pry it out?

That would probably do it, but I have no means.

Another thought, if I can get one… I think a shovel with a square edge, and not a spade, would probably do it. The spade tends to curve away from you as it goes deeper. I need to go straight down, and the straight-edged shovel may just do it.

I think I have this exact setup. I got the CHEAPEST sawzall they sell, and I beat the crap out of it here at the house.

It will definitely be worth your $40.

Good luck

If you have a chain saw already, just plan on buying a new chain and bar if needed. You also don’t need a pickup, just hook to the frame tube of any car. Don’t jerk. Make sure the roots on the far side are severed.

Too late to edit. Didn’t recall you can’t get at it with the chain saw. Rent a two man auger like this. Bore it out. Caution though, roots are hard to cut and tend to want to snag.

I would hit that root mass with a pick-ax or saw until it broke free below ground level. Then I would coat the remaining exposed cut root ends with a very strong brush/stump killer. Toss the dirt back to bury the body…err… roots… and be done with it. That’s what I did in a similar situation 4 years ago and I’ve never seen a sucker or new growth out of that spot since.

I drive a Jeep Wrangler and own an assortment of chains. Friends have asked me to come over and pull shrubs. For the price of a few beers, the problem is taken care of.

If it weren’t out in front of your house, what I’d do is build a fire down in the hole. Wood, charcoal, thermite, all of the above maybe. Get it hot enough, and it’ll burn. Let it get painful-hot, and let it burn itself out. The heat should be sufficient to kill the root system for quite a ways. Then just fill in the hole.

Pit-roasted smores at Jinx’s place!