How to Dig Out Tree Stumps

Written by cat mccabe
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How to Dig Out Tree Stumps
Dig out a tree stump carefully. (tree stump image by green 308 from

Digging out a tree stump can be backbreaking work, but it's better than leaving a stump to rot in the ground, which can attract mould, fungus and insects. The size of the stump determines how hard the removal is going to be. Stumps as large as nine inches in diameter can be dug out with a shovel and a pair of long-handled pruning shears used to clip side and tap roots. If the stump is larger than that, grab a pickaxe, hatchet and wheelbarrow to do the job.

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Things you need

  • Shovel
  • Hatchet
  • Long-handled pruning shears
  • Axe
  • Spade
  • Wheelbarrow

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  1. 1

    Resist the impulse to cut the stump close to the ground. Use whatever height it has left as leverage to twist, pull or rock it to loosen side and tap roots.

  2. 2

    Dig a trench with a shovel, two feet from the trunk, all the way around the trunk. Make the trench at least 2 feet deep and 1 foot wide. Chop through side roots with a hatchet as you encounter them.

  3. 3

    Rock the stump back and forth once the trench is dug. Dig out more soil around the tap root with a spade. Cut tap roots that are 3 to 4 inches thick with a pair of long-handled pruning shears, reaching down into the hole as far as possible. Cut larger tap roots with an axe or hatchet.

  4. 4

    Drag the stump out of the hole once main roots are severed. Hack it into smaller pieces with the axe if necessary. Put the pieces in the wheelbarrow and cart them to your compost heap or elsewhere for disposal. Backfill the hole with soil and tamp it down firmly, adding more soil to keep the ground level.

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