How to Kill a Tree Stump Still in the Ground

Updated February 21, 2017

Felling an undesirable tree may remove the problem from your sight, but it acts as a temporary solution since green ash, poplar and willow trees grow back from stumps. To successfully kill the stump you need to kill the roots as well. Once dead, the roots slowly start to decay and loosen their grip in the soil, making it easier to pull the stump out. Kill and remove the stump yourself instead of hiring a professional and paying excessive costs.

Cut the stump as close to the ground as possible using a chainsaw. You can also use a hand saw for the process but it takes longer to slice all the way through the wood.

Drill 1- to 1 1/2-inch-wide and 8-inch-deep holes through the upper (exposed) surface of the tree stump using an electric drill. Drill each hole at a 45-degree angle and space them evenly apart.

Pour or spray a slow-release, high-nitrogen fertiliser into the holes that feed the moss and fungus in the stump and ultimately speed up the wood decomposition process. Follow label directions for application rate and precautions. Alternatively, mix a water-soluble herbicide with water or an oil-based one with oil and pour into the holes. Use a water-soluble herbicide immediately after cutting the tree so it is effective.

Cover the exposed surface of the stump with 2 inches of soil to suffocate the wood and encourage new life to take over. Irrigate the soil over the stump daily since wet wood decomposes faster than dry wood.

Dig a trench around a small- or medium-sized stump to expose the roots. Depending on the size of the stump, dig a 2-foot-wide trench around it or even wider using a shovel. Collect the soil in mounds nearby or add to a wheelbarrow.

Cut exposed roots with a sharp tool such as a root saw or grub hoe to loosen their grip on the stump. Cut the roots into small sections and pull these out of the soil.

Insert the shovel at an angle into the soil, directly under the base of the stump and go around it. Pry the stump loose so it comes out of the soil. Cut through any remaining roots that firmly grasp the stump and rock it back and forth until free. Pull it out of the soil. Also collect broken roots and root pieces from the soil and discard.


Instead of fertiliser, use a commercially available chemical such as Roundup Tree Stump and Root Killer that hastens the rate at which stumps rot. To kill a coniferous tree stump, mix 709ml. of Roundup with 1 gallon of water, or mix 354ml. of Roundup with the same amount of water to kill a deciduous tree stump. Spread the herbicide over the exposed surface of the stump and its bark using a paintbrush.

Things You'll Need

  • Chainsaw
  • Electric drill
  • Fertiliser or herbicide
  • Pump sprayer (optional)
  • Watering can
  • Shovel
  • Wheelbarrow (optional)
  • Root saw or grub hoe
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About the Author

Tanya Khan is a freelance author and consultant, having written numerous articles for various online and print sources. She has a Master of Business Administration in marketing but her passion lies in writing.