What to do with ground tree stump mulch?

Written by phyllis benson
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What to do with ground tree stump mulch?
Use ground tree stumps as organic mulch. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

When a tree is cut down, the stump remains. Often the remaining tree stub or stump sprouts annoying suckers and unwanted tree foliage. Remove this stump and its roots to prevent tree or sucker growth. Commercial tree and landscape services grind out the stump below ground level. When the mechanical grinder chips out stump wood, the resulting chips and sawdust make effective organic mulch.

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Use a commercial tree service for stump grinding. Such services leave tree debris as wood chips, shredded bark or sawdust. These chips are organic material you can use as you would any wood mulch. It decomposes gradually and releases nutrients into the soil. Depending on the trees, the resulting mulch may be hardwood, such as oak, or softwood, such as pine. All are good mulching materials. Typically the ground tree stump mulch is a mix of bark, heartwood, roots, branches and leaves. The tree parts decompose at different rates, feeding the soil over several years.

Top Dressing

Use ground tree stump mulch as top dressing in landscape beds. Used around perennials, the mulch inhibits weed growth and conserves water. Because wood takes several years to decompose, it is best used as a top dressing over compost or a thin fertiliser layer that provides immediate nutrition to plant roots. As a topper, the stump mulch breaks up rain or irrigation water that otherwise washes away soil. Unlike plastic mulch, which blocks air and water flow, the organic stump mulch holds soil in place while allowing air and water to the plant roots.


When the grinder chops up dirt and deep trunk roots, this mixed debris is unsightly and not useful for decorative top dressing. Use this mixed organic material in your compost cycle. Mix it with landscape trimmings or grass clippings, allowing the compost to mature as rich organic soil-like compost. Use this mix as fill in outlying areas where erosion or excavations have damaged the natural land profile. It is not useful around annuals or vegetables as the mixture decomposes too slowly to be of nutritional benefit, but it is a natural material for filling holes or smoothing landscape irregularities. Select and plant ground cover in the ground tree stump mulch mix to encourage soil retention and settling.

Other Uses

Thick wood mulch conserves water by reducing evaporation. In damp soils, mulch may trap water and cause root rot or plant disease. It provides cover for invasive pests such as voles to attack the mulched plants. In these conditions, remove the mulch and use it for pathway surfaces or decorative mulching away from trees and shrubs. Use ground tree stump mulch along fence lines or buildings to retard weed growth. Fill the original tree stump hole with the mulch and scatter wild flower seeds or other assorted plant mixes for flowers and foliage.

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