Need help getting rid of a stump

Dear gardening wizards,

I use “stump” for lack of a better word; the thing is probably about 6" in diameter.

I tried digging it up but it seem the roots go all the way to the property next door. Also, it’s wedged under my chain link fence so I can’t really get to it. Has anyone tried stump remover? It looks like there’s some kind of granules that will make it decompose. But is that going to kills everything else around it? More important, is it safe for animals?

If anyone has experience with this stuff, or a better suggestion, I’d be very grateful.

Stumped in St. Pete

I’ve no experience with chemical stump removers so I can’t comment on those.

What exactly are your goals here? I had a similar situation with a stump and all I wanted to do was remove it as a mowing obstruction. Half an hour with a cordless drill and a 1" spade bit turned most of it into sawdust and five minutes with a sledgehammer took the rest of the stump below grade level. It’s not a prefect cosmetic job and the grass doesn’t grow properly there but it’s good enough for my purposes. I just mow over it an move on.

If you can’t handle it with tools in your garage, you could try renting a stump grinder or contact an arborist to see what it would cost. You go down an inch or two, get rid of the chips, throw dirt over it and call it a day.

Edit: I missed that it’s under a fence so maybe grinding it will be difficult or impossible. I’d try hand tools to cut it as flush to the ground as possible. Is there a reason why it needs to be removed? Sounds as though it’s not really an obstruction if it’s under a fence.

Another approach for a small stump is burning it. Since access is not good, how about a propane torch? Dig up around it and prop the torch up and let it slowly burn.

I’m trying to get rid of it so I can put a fence panel against the existing chain link and the stupid stumpy thing protrudes about 2 inches. Then there’s the parts of the branches that I’ve already cut through that are woven / stuck into the middle of the fence. I’ve been trying to hack away at it but it’s in just such an awkward place I thought it might be easier to disappear it chemically(though I really don’t like putting toxins in the ground.)

I got rid of one using gasoline. Not what you’re thinking though. I had animal and other plant issues as well. Some old guy at the bar told me to try it. Just drilled a few holes in the top of the stump, nothing huge, with a drill bit. Then, over the course of one day, fill them with gasoline, maybe three times.

I did as he said, mostly because I had it at hand, then completely forgot about it. When I remembered and went back, maybe two weeks later, to check it was already crumbling and it was pretty easy to pull chunks out. There was no smell of gas or anything, and it didn’t affect any of the nearby by plants at all. It’s really only a few tablespoons of gasoline.

Good Luck!

Hmmmmmm. I just happen to have a bit of gasoline that I haven’t been sure how to dispose of. Maybe we have a 2 bird / 1 stone situation here.

Alternatively, this time of year I often have gasoline that will not be needed for lawn care. I put the can in my Jeep and pour it into my gas-tank whenever I stop to fill up.

If you have a few years to spare, you might want to watch this three part series.

The trees in the background were twigs when he started.

Years ago I had a stump I needed to get rid of fairly quickly but didn’t have the time to physically remove it myself. I bored a 3/4" hole about 3-4 inches deep in it and filled the hole with gas then set a can on it to reduce evaporation. Waited until the gas soaked into the wood, about 4 hours. Stuffed the hole with some loose shred from the house shredder and lit it.

24 hours later I had a stump shaped hole in the ground. After the initial flareup there was no open flame, it just smouldered into ash. YMMV of course, so you might want to put a metal shield by the fence if you try this.

Chemicals can work, grinders are better. If budget and all is an issue a regular electric drill and a head like this

can work. At least it lets you cut the roots that leave your property and remove the bigger pieces from your side. I did that on one from a flowering tree that was situated in such a way that I couldn’t use my regular go-to (explosives – hey, I grew up on a farm) and it worked real well. Took say an hour after I cut it to ground level and dug around what I could.

A log peeler would probably double up as a light duty stump grinder if it’s in the budget and you’d need it more than once.

I dig up a lot of stumps and always use the same method which is pretty easy. For a 6" stump I would start digging a circle around it about 9" from the stump, cut every root I come across as I contue the circle. Make your ditch at least as wide as the shovel and cut the roots in two places near the stump and to the outside of the circle . It should come right out. I rarely spend an hour digging out one that size.

Mr.Wrekker always pours old motor oil on them. He has no worries about a bad smell or other plants. Or a fence. It takes a long time but it does get rid of them.

I can’t fathom what pour motor oil on the stump would do other than to pollute groundwater! In most scenarios, vegetable oil is used and then burned, but burning 5w-30 would create a tremendous smoke cloud and smell- not to mention killing everything nearby.

I personally have used stump remover as well as drilling holes to allow water access and fungal growth. I had an old apple tree stump (18" diameter) that was hard as a rock- and was cut 2" above grade in the middle my yard and had been there for at least 3 years. WIth that one neither of the above methods worked well. Instead I beat the heck out of the stump with a sledge- I attempted to break up the wood a bit more. And then I took some fertile soil from the garden and put about 1" on top of the stump and then put some sod chunks on top of that to make a little mound (this was primarly to keep my kids safe as they ran and rode around the back yard. But within 8 months, the grass would flourishing and I cut the sod half way in order to flip it up and investigate the stump. It was 50% gone and the rest was crumbling. I chipped at it with the sledge and a spade). Another 4 months and the grass bump was below ground level having fully degraded the stump. I think the key was just the grass/sod keeping the stump wet and allowing the fungi to do their work!

I don’t know why the motor oil works. He swears by it. I live in a place where most of the ground water is salty because of years ago oil drilling. We had to do super deep water wells for our water. Our pond is spring fed. It can be brackish in low rain years. So I don’t think we can harm it much more.

A co-worker told me that his family once sponsored an immigrant farm family from SE Asia. His dad was going to pay to remove a large (18") fir stump but the immigrant father and his two sons volunteered and removed it in an afternoon with machetes… All that was left was a pile of wood chips.

If all else fails, get yourself a Beaver. High upkeep, though.

Like Disheavel we had a couple huge stumps we wanted gone but digging them up would have destroyed the lawn. They were from almost 4’ diameter Elm trees that had been snapped badly during a wind storm (we got lucky the wind was ripping in away from our house). They were on the edge of the hill and we didn’t want to have the start of erosion valleys there.

So my husband built 2 boxes around them, filled them with good compost and dirt and then we kept strawberries in them. 4 years later when we moved to the new house we brought the boxes with. That left 2 barely raised mounds that have since flattened out.

My dog in the back, Zelda (RIP), with the neighbors’ dog, Peepee (RIP), playing on one of the stumps:

Although this won’t work with your stump under the fence, I typically remove stumps with a Splitting Maul. It’s like a combination axe and sledge hammer. Bring it down along the top of the stump along the edges to split off sides of the stump. Keep working around the stump and it will soon be gone. It can be a fair bit of work (like splitting logs), but it’s actually kind of fun.