A landscaping tree dies from disease, needs to be cut down for remodelling, or gets blown down by high winds. Now there is a stump in the ground. Dan Ramsey, in "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Building Your Own Home," advises against leaving stumps in place. They can cause sinkholes when they rot and can harbour pests such as plant pathogens, termites and yellowjackets. If quick removal is desired, mechanical means are best. If you have patience, rotting the stump in place is possible.
High Nitrogen Fertilizers
Wood is decayed by fungi which invade the dead tissue. The process is slow and dependent on how dense and hard the stump wood is. During the first year of rotting, fungi need extra nitrogen to grow best, so the process can be hastened by adding high-nitrogen fertilisers to holes drilled down into the stump. Holes should be at least 1 inch wide, as deep as possible, and as close together as possible. Fill the holes with synthetic or organic fertilisers and moisten the stump. Cover the stump with layers of shredded mulch.
During the second year of stump rotting, the organisms at work need to have more carbon to work efficiently. Uncover the stump and add sugar-containing products to the holes. Ordinary granulated sugar is a good choice. Howard Garrett, at his website Dirt Doctor, also fills the holes with molasses, syrup, old jellies, jams, candy and buttermilk. Wet the stump and cover with shredded mulch layers.
Some chemicals are available which help to dry out and make tree stumps more porous as an advance treatment for burning the stump in place. One of the products available is Bonide's Stump Out, which contains sodium disulfite. This chemical dissolves lignin in the stump, making it easier to burn. Grant's Stump Remover contains potassium nitrate, as does Spectracide Stump Remover and Greenlight's Stump Away.
Care must be taken if using fire to burn a tree stump in place. The stump should be seasoned and dry, and local fire ordinances checked to see if this method is permitted in your area and if there are restricted times for burning or permits needed. Stumps may burn for two or three weeks, and fire restriction and safety precautions such as fire breaks and fences are advised. According to the Louisiana State University Agriculture Center, the most efficient way to burn a stump is to use a stove made of a 5-gallon metal can, bricks or stones.
Mechanical Removal Products
The quickest and most efficient product for stump removal is the stump grinder. Equipped with carbide teeth, this machine literally chews the stump away. They can be rented from equipment rentals or, for just a few stumps, an arborist can be hired to do the work. For new construction sites, backhoes and skidsteers can be used to pull out stumps and dispose of them off site. For smaller jobs, hand digging tools such as axes, shovels, loppers, a root saw and sweat equity will get the job done.