How to Kill Tree Stumps Naturally

Killing tree stumps naturally is the best way to prevent any toxins from entering the human body; however, there are some methods that are better than others when it comes to actually killing the stump.

The majority of trees will die once they have been cut down but there are some that won’t die through this method. There are a multitude of methods you can use to kill the stump in a natural manner that won’t release any toxins.

We’ve gathered the best ways that you can kill your tree stump naturally without the use of toxic chemicals or poisons as well as what tools you will need before you get started. 

Using toxic chemicals or poisons to kill tree stumps is harmful towards the human body as inhaling the toxins can cause a lot of internal damage depending on how much is inhaled and can also be fatal for any pets who are allowed out into the garden.

As well as this, using chemicals is harmful to the environment as well by not only damaging the stump but also the surrounding area. Using natural methods is more eco-friendly and ensures that your garden will look more beautiful. 

Tools You’ll Need

Before we even delve into the different methods that you need to know, it’s important to know what kinds of tools you’ll need and make sure you’re properly prepared. This will ensure that you are being as safe as possible whichever method you choose. Here are just a few of the tools that you’ll need to purchase:

  • Black garbage bags
  • Bucket
  • Chainsaw
  • Copper nails
  • Epsom salts
  • Hammer
  • Power drill
  • Shovel
  • Wood drill bit

1. Anaerobic Compost Tea

The first method that you need to learn about is anaerobic compost tea. You may never have heard of it, but compost tea is usually applied to plants as it contains a lot of microbes in the soil which can help to promote healthy plant life. However, if it is prepared incorrectly then it will cause a toxic reaction in the tree and kill it.

Bear in mind that just because it causes a toxic reaction doesn’t mean that it is full of bad toxins; on the contrary, the reaction is only harmful to the plant and isn’t toxic to the surrounding area or any humans or animals nearby.

A successful anaerobic compost tea will be full of oxygen which is known as aerobic compost tea. Preparing a compost tea and eliminating the oxygen by evaporating the chlorine from the water will make an anaerobic compost tea which can then be poured around the bottom of the tree stump.

It can take a day or two to prepare the anaerobic compost tea but it will be full of bacteria killers and good fungi meaning that the tree will be starved of its nutrients and will eventually die.  

2. Boiling Water

The second method is to use boiling water which is one of the easiest and most accessible methods to undertake. Simply give a fresh cut to the tree stump and pour some boiling hot water across the top of the stump.

The theory goes that the high temperature will kill the stump almost immediately as the shock of the heat will penetrate through the entire stump which in turn will kill all the nutrients. This may not work on all kinds of trees so do your research beforehand to make sure it will work. 

3. Copper Nails

If you want to kill your tree naturally and want to do it over a long period of time so as to limit the amount of damage to the surrounding area then using copper nails is a good choice for you.

Using copper nails can kill the tree stump after a year long period. The way this works is by nailing the stump with the copper which is poisonous towards the stump as it penetrates the live tissue. As mentioned before, this is a long process which can take up to a year so don’t expect immediate results. 

4. Cut the Tree Down

This method is the simplest choice for those who want to use minimal materials. The first thing you need to know is whether the tree stump can be killed by cutting down the tree and removing the stump or if the roots need to also be removed.

Some examples of the former include conifers, maple and pine trees but you’ll find that the majority of trees will need to be killed by eliminating the roots and digging them up as well.

Doing this by hand can take a long time but it is the most natural way and ensures that no further harm is caused to the surrounding area. 

5. Epsom Salts

Using Epsom salts is a plant friendly way to kill tree stumps. This method is easy to prepare and can take a few months until you see the final results.

Start off by freshly cutting the stump before drilling lots of holes that go deep into the structure of the stump. Fill these holes with Epsom salts and cover it with tarp before leaving it to sit for a few months.

The Epsom salts then penetrate through the structure of the tree stump and drain it of all the nutrients and good bacterias until it dies. Some tougher tree stumps may attempt to grow more shoots but you can add more holes if this happens to eliminate the shoots.

Trees such as elm trees and olive trees are a great type of tree to use this method on. The great thing about Epsom salt is that it is made up of tiny pieces which means you can drill a lot of holes.

6. Fairy Garden

This method doesn’t require fully removing the stump at all. In fact, if you want to create a quirky space in your garden then this is a fantastic opportunity. A hugely popular trend for gardens is to create a fairy garden and what better place to locate it than in the center of your tree stump.

Simply carve out a circle in the center and then add wooden doors and decorations that are perfect for the best fairy garden. This is a great idea if you have children. You can add soil and flowers in any combination to make it truly unique to your garden. 

7. Fire

Killing a tree stump with fire does have a lot of risk and issues as can be expected. The first thing to note is that if the wood is wet then it won’t burn well at all so it’s completely based on the weather and condition of your garden.

If you do want to use fire to kill the tree stump then it’s best to make a large bonfire and have the tree stump in the middle underneath. This means that there is enough material on top to burn through any wet wood.

Before preparing your materials and setting your fire, contact your fire department so they can run you through the health and safety in order to minimize the level of risk involved.

Another method that you could do is using a burn barrel which is made from a metal drum which can then double up as a BBQ. Once you’ve completed a few burnings, your tree stump should be dead. 

8. Goats

Easily the most bizarre method on this list, using goats is a unique way to kill tree stumps and is strangely popular. Chances are that you don’t have a goat as a pet but finding one to borrow for the process shouldn’t be too hard or too expensive.

What makes goats so brilliant at removing tree stumps is that they are browsers which means that they love to feed on bushes, leaves and trees compared to animals such as sheep or cows that feed on grass.

If you tie a goat to a tree stump then you’ll find that they will eliminate the roots and shoots and may even eat some of the bark. Ideal tree stumps for this method include elm or olive tree. This is because they will attempt to grow shoots a couple of times before accepting defeat.

After a few months, you’ll find that the tree stump is completely eliminated and will not grow back. Once you can see that there aren’t any more fresh shoots, the tree stump is then ready to be removed completely.

If you want to remain using animals for your methods then you can use a horse for this step or you could do it yourself by cutting the branches which will take a bit more time. 

9. Plastic Bag

The plastic bag method is one that remains incredibly popular due to its efficiency. A great choice to use on elm tree stumps, simply cover the top of the stump with a black plastic bag such as a garbage bag before sealing it using duct tape around the bag so it covers the stump.

This will suffocate the stump and hide it from the sun meaning that it isn’t getting the nutrients it needs to survive therefore taking away its freshness and killing it.

If you unveil the tree stump and it is still alive, simply cut it again so it has a fresh surface before repeating the process again until it eventually dies. It may be that you haven’t given it enough time to die so maybe leave it for a little longer than before. 

10. Rock Salt

We’ve already discussed Epsom salts which are better for the environment overall but if you are not really eco-conscious and want to go for a cheaper salt then rock salt is a good option for you.

The risk you are taking with rock salt is that it can cause damage to the surrounding area around your tree stump so be careful where you place it. The way that the rock salt is applied is exactly the same as it is with Epsom salts as you freshly cut the stump then drill holes around the edges of the surface and fill the holes with the rock salt before covering it with tarp.

The one major difference between the two methods is that rock salt contains larger pieces so you’ll have to make sure that the holes you drill are bigger than that you would do for Epsom salt so plenty of the rock salt will fit.

Another great option is using a salt block which is placed on top but this poses issues as nearby deer will become attracted to it. This method is very hit and miss when it comes to the success rate as a stubborn tree stump will take longer to die than others. If this is the case, mix the rock salt with some anaerobic compost tea to quicken the process. 

11. Tractors

The penultimate method you should know about is using tractors to kill the tree stump. If you live on a farm and have a particularly stubborn tree then a tractor is a great way of eliminating the stump and the roots as they will be razed from the ground so the tree roots won’t remerge.

If you own a tractor then this won’t be an issue but if you own a large piece of land that could cater the tractor then you’ll find that hiring one is extremely costly.

Also, it’s wise to make sure that the person driving the tractor knows what they are doing in order to properly kill the tree while also adhering to strict health and safety guidelines. 

12. Vinegar

The last method you can use is vinegar. Often used for killing trees, it can also be used to kill tree stumps by freshly cutting the stump, drilling holes around the edges before filling it with vinegar.

This helps to penetrate through the structure of the stump which in turn will eventually kill it naturally. Using a white distilled vinegar is the best option because it is the cheapest type of vinegar you can buy. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Will bleach kill a tree stump?

Not only is bleach full of harmful chemicals and poison which makes it a bad choice for killing tree stumps but it doesn’t penetrate the tree’s inner structure and kill the roots.

Instead, the bleach will sterilize the stump but this in turn may not prevent any further shoots from growing. Therefore, it’s not a good choice at all for eliminating tree stumps in a natural or efficient way. 

How long does it take to kill a tree stump?

As you can see from the methods in this article, the amount of time it takes to kill a tree stump can range from a few weeks all the way to a year. This is why it is important to look into each method thoroughly before making your final decision as you have the factor in the time range.

While you may find that chemical solutions are faster, they can do more damage than good in the long run to the surrounding area. Natural solutions work slowly because they have to penetrate the tree stump’s structure.