How to Choose the Best Tree Stump Killer
There are times when cutting down a tree is the only option, whether we like it or not. This is especially the case if the tree is diseased or posing a safety risk.
However, cutting it down is only half the battle, as getting rid of the tree stump can be where the real challenge lies.
Tree stumps can still sprout seedlings and spread infections to other plants, so they should ideally be removed as soon as possible.
Using a tree stump killer can make it easier to remove. There are a few different types of product to choose from, and choosing the best tree stump killer will depend on your own preferences as well as the size of the stump.
Different Ways to Remove a Tree Stump
Firstly, let’s look at all the ways to remove a tree stump from your garden. Using a tree stump killer just one option, although it can often be the most cost effective.
Smaller tree stumps can be pulled out using a winch. While these are a good option for experienced gardeners, they are difficult for many people to use. You’ll need to hire a winch and make sure you know how to use it.
Another option is to hire a landscape gardener who can remove the stump using a mini-excavator or stump grinder. You could also hire these machines yourself; however, this should only be considered if you’re already experienced with how to use them.
You may have thought about setting light to the tree trump in your garden, but I’m afraid I’m going to quash those dreams pretty quickly. It’s highly unlikely that burning your stump (as many people attempt to do) will be effective. Stumps are usually very wet and won’t burn properly.
Some people successfully kill stumps in their garden by using copper nails. This can be a slow process, but we will look at it in more depth below.
Finally, you can use a chemical tree stump killer. These are relatively cheap and can be very effective. Once the tree stump is dead, it will need to be dug out.
Two Types of Tree Stump Killer
You can either use chemicals or copper nails to kill off a tree stump. Chemical stump killers are generally more effective.
It’s a common misconception that chemical tree stump killers cause the stump to disintegrate. Instead, they kill the stump so that it won’t regerminate. If you want to get completely rid of the stump, you’ll need to remove it after killing it.
Chemical tree stump killers contain a range of chemicals and are absorbed into the tree once applied. The killer penetrates into the living tissue of the stump, with the chemicals then circulating to the roots and poisoning them.
Once the roots have been poisoned, the tree stump gradually dies. It’s important to note that this is not a short-term solution to ridding your garden of tree stumps, and it can take several months to die.
Copper tree stump nails offer a slightly different approach. These are hammered into the base of the tree stump and left there. The nails damage the growth cells and the copper eventually kills the stump. There are mixed opinions about how well this method actually works, and if the copper has any part to play in the tree’s demise.
Nevertheless, if you want a chemical-free option, nails are a good option to try first. They’ll damage the tree’s cells if nothing else.
Choosing the Best Tree Stump Killer
Most tree stump killers that attack the plant’s roots will rely on glyphosate to kill the tree stump. There are some concerns about whether or not this chemical is carcinogenic, so you should do your own research before using it.
Triclopyr is another powerful herbicide that will attack the roots of a tree stump. It is sometimes used instead of glyphosate in tree stump killer products. Again, it’s recommended that you research triclopyr thoroughly, as it can have a damaging effect on wildlife and the environment.
Other chemicals, such as potassium nitrate, can be found in different types of stump killer. Potassium nitrate will cause the wood of the stump to go soft which can make it easier to remove. However, if you don’t successfully remove all of the roots, they may continue living and spawn another tree.
Ease of Application
Some tree stump killers need your tree stump to still be alive in order to work effectively. They should be applied within a week of cutting down the tree.
Chemical tree stump killers come either as granules or a liquid. Granules tend to need dissolving in water before being applied to the tree stump. Depending on the instructions, liquid killers may need dissolving, or may be applied directly.
Some of the easiest tree stump killers to use are those that come in sachets. These don’t tend to need diluting and can be applied directly from the sachet onto the tree stump.
Although some tree stump killers have the option to be diluted and sprayed, this technique is usually best used for killing weeds with the product, not tree stumps. Tree stumps tend to require careful, focused product application.
Tree Stump Killer FAQs
How does tree stump killer work?
Stump killers usually contain glyphosate and/or other chemicals. These are applied to the surface of the stump, or poured into holes drilled into the tree. The herbicide gets absorbed into the stump, killing the tree from the roots so it can’t grow back.
Other types of tree stump killer contain ingredients like potassium nitrate. These are applied in the same way and cause the tree stump to go soft. This makes the stump easy to remove, but may not completely kill off the roots.
How do I use tree stump killer?
For maximum effectiveness, it’s best to use the stump killer between November and March, and during a dry period of 24-48 hours. A lot of tree stump killers suggest using the product within one week of cutting down the tree.
Apply the tree killer according to the instructions provided with it. You may need to simply paint it around top of the stump, or it may be recommended that you drill holes into the stump and pour the solution into the holes. The latter tends to be the most effective.
Once you’ve applied the solution, cover the tree stump with a sheet or tarpaulin to stop rainwater from diluting the product.
Which is better, glyphosate or triclopyr?
There has been some debate over the years about whether or not glyphosate is carcinogenic.
There have been several contradicting studies in the past decade – carried out by EPA, WHO and The European Food Safety Authority – so it’s best to do your own research to make an informed decision.
Similarly, there is not enough evidence to say whether triclopyr is carcinogenic or not at this time, according to the EPA.
In terms of its use, glyphosate targets and kills all plants, whilst triclopyr is a selective herbicide that primarily kills broadleaf plants and woody vegetation.