How to kill a tree stump

Written by jo burns
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How to kill a tree stump
A stump can continue to grow until the roots are killed. (tree stump image by Radoslav Lazarov from

Cutting down an unwanted tree may remove the problem from your sight, but it often does not kill the tree. According to the University of Massachusetts, many types of trees -- including poplar, willow, green ash, and some maples -- continue growing new sprouts from their stumps, displaying nature's valiant effort to survive. If you kill the stump, you will kill the roots. Once dead, the roots will begin to decay and loosen their secure grip in the earth. A stump is more easily removed after it has been killed.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Protective gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Lopping shears
  • Chainsaw or axe
  • Heavy-duty herbicide
  • Drill
  • 1 1/2-inch drill bit
  • Nitrate of potash or commercial stump killer

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  1. 1

    Put on your protective gloves and safety glasses. Remove any new growth or suckers from the stump with your lopping shears. Cut the stump down to ground level with a chainsaw or axe, if it has not already been done.

  2. 2

    Apply a heavy-duty herbicide, one made for killing wild berry vines or brush, to the fresh cuts. Follow the manufacturer's directions for application. Be careful not to get overspray onto any desirable plants.

  3. 3

    Place the 1 1/2-inch bit into your drill. Angle your drill at a 45-degree slant. Drill holes around the stump, approximately every five inches. Make the holes about 9 inches deep.

  4. 4

    Pack the holes with nitrate of potash, also known as salt peter, or a commercial product made for killing stumps. Bury the stump with garden soil and allow the chemical to work.

Tips and warnings

  • The amount of time it takes a stump to die depends on the size of the stump and the type of tree. When the roots are dead, the stump will be loose and can be pulled out of the ground relatively easily.

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