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There is no doubt that removing a tree stump by hand can be a daunting task. This is especially so if you need to undertake the work with hand tools.
There are a few reasons why you may have to remove a tree stump by hand. The most typical are a small budget or not wide enough access for a mechanical grinder.
In most cases however you can indeed effectively remove a tree stump by hand. In the end how easy it will be will depend upon the age, species and size of the tree stump. It will also be important to employ the correct tool for the correct task and stage of your manual tree stump removal.
In this article I will explain the process of removing a tree stump by hand step by step. I will also explain a little about the structure of trees roots so you can gradually work the stump loose.
I will also answer some typical tree stump questions as well as other means of removing them without machinery.
Can you remove a tree stump by hand?
You can remove a tree stump by hand successfully if you use the correct process and hand tools.
How easy it will be however will depend upon the size of the stump, and the stumps age. If the stump is so large in size and mass you would not be able to physically shift it then breaking it loose is probably a waste of time.
I would recommend if you think you could physically roll it or shift it from site it is worth removing by hand. The stump of any tree is one of the most tough and dense parts of the trunk. This makes it difficult to cut into manageable and movable sections.
However if you are persistent and patient, many tree stumps can be removed by hand.
If a tree has a diameter of over 600mm then removing by hand becomes much less likely.
How large is your tree stump?
If your tree stump is so large you could not physically move it by hand then there is little point trying to remove it.
Typically trees with a girth of over 600mm in diameter are very troublesome to remove by hand. In such cases you are better seeking the assistance of mechanical methods.
What is the position of your tree stump?
If you are attempting to remove any tree stump by hand you will need good access around stumps circumference.
This is so you can easily access and excavate around all of the stumps anchor roots. Anchor roots are the horizontal roots which grow out away from a trees base anchoring it into position.
In order to remove the tree stump you will need to easily access all of the the roots. Very often, unwanted trees grow along boundaries and fence lines making it challenging to access their roots.
In such cases it can be extremely difficult to remove a stump by hand without damaging your neighbour’s garden. You will need good access to dig all the way around the stump to a reasonable width and depth.
How much tree stump should I leave?
When removing a tree stump by hand it helps to leave a good height of tree trunk attached to the stump.
This can enable you to apply mechanical leverage to the stump making it easier to move. This gives you a great advantage when trying to work the stump loose.
By pulling and pushing at the trunk you should slowly be able to work the roots loose as you excavate. Consequently you should try to leave about two meters of trunk attached to the tree stump.
How to remove a tree stump by hand
Tools you will need
Step 1: Preparation
Make sure you have all the tools you need and safety equipment to hand. When removing stumps you will need to excavate around the roots thoroughly.
Therefore, it makes sense to do this at a time of year when the ground is soft but not too boggy. Spring and autumn is the best time of year to remove tree stumps by hand.
Step 2: Digging around the roots
You will need to excavate around all of the lateral anchor roots, these grow out from the stump horizontally.
Try to dig out the soil from under the roots and the stump itself as much as possible. As you dig push and pull at the stump to see if there is any movement.
Step 3: Chopping the anchor roots
If you apply pressure or impact the stump with a hammer you should see the anchor roots move and vibrate.
After you have excavated around them well you will need to sever these lateral roots.
This is best done with an axe or the axe blade of a mattock. Once the anchor roots have been cut all the way round the stump should be easier to move and dislodge.
Step 4: Chisel out stubborn sections of stump.
You may find that certain sections of the stump are just too robust to cut out with an axe.
In such a case you will need to get up close and personal. For these parts of the stump you will need to gradually chew out sections with a sharp chisel.
Slowly and carefully tap your chisel with a hammer into the thick roots gradually chipping out large sections. Eventually the stump should become loose with only the central tap root remaining.
Step 5: Rock the stump
You should now be able to significantly move the stump from side to side. Rock the stump back and forth to help make the tap root loose and exposed.
Excavate more soil out from around the central tap root as you rock it loose.
Step 6: Chop through the tap root
You should now have reasonable access and a good view of the central tap root. You will need to cut this tap root to completely remove the tree stump.
This can be achieved using a sharp axe, mattock blade, bladed iron bar or a grafting spade. Once the tap root has been cut you on now completely remove your tree stump.
How to remove a stump by burning
A great way to remove a tree stump without the use of heavy machinery is to burn out the stump.
To be effective however, steps must be taken to make sure the fire does not cause a safety risk. When burning out stumps the stump should be at least 3 metres away from buildings and boundaries.
This is especially the case with wooden structures and fences. To burn out the stump completely you will need to add combustible materials to the tree stump.
This will help to build enough heat to burn down to the core of the stump. As tree stumps are submerged in the soil they have high moisture content.
This makes them more challenging to burn than dead branches and sticks. Consequently when burning out a stump it is recommended to excavate around the stump as much as possible.
This will allow air and light get to it to help dry it out.
Excavate around the tree stump exposing the whole stump and roots. Heap the excavated soil up around the perimeter of the stump area to create a safety barrier.
When the stump is dry drill large holes into the stump using a power drill. This will allow oxygen and heat to penetrate the stump during the burning process.
Heap coal or charcoal in and around the tree stump, this is so you can create a large amount of heat around the stump when burning.
Heap up thin woody material such as dry twigs and kindling in a pyramid over the top of the coal and charcoal. As this burns this will ignite the coal and charcoal below.
Get your garden hose ready on standby encase your fire gets out of control. Wet the ground and fences around the outside of your burning area.
Using firelighters or paper light the sticks and kindling over the coal. Eventually your coal and charcoal should be burning bright burning through the stump. The stump could take up to 12 hours to completely burn through.
When the stump has burned through completely make sure the fire is out by drenching the soil with plenty of water.
How to remove a tree stump with Epsom salt
Epsom salt contains magnesium and sulphur which can draw moisture out of a tree stump and the root system.
The result is the tree stump rotting away quickly under the soil. This makes the stump easy to break through and remove.
To remove a tree stump with Epsom salt drill vertical holes into the stump about 2 inches deep.
Then fill the holes with Epsom salt and gently poor water over the holes. You will then need to cover over the stump with a sheet material like plastic.
This can be anchored into position with heavy masonry materials such as bricks. After a couple of months the centre of the stump should be well decomposed and easier to remove.
Growing mushrooms to decay your tree stump
Probably the most productive, eco-friendly and exciting way to remove tree stumps is by growing edible mushrooms on them.
This will be a slow process however you can reap a tasty and seasonal reward in the mean time. Most edible mushrooms feed on the dead and dying wood of trees through their mycelium.
This slowly breaks down the wood over time until it degrades into crumbly organic matter.
This process can take a few years but is probably the most natural way to degrade a tree stump. You will need to purchase wooded dowels infected with edible mushroom mycelium.
These can be obtained from an online retailer. Some of the best mushroom species for tree stumps include Oyster mushrooms, Shiitake, King Oyster and Reshi mushrooms.
You have a greater chance of success is you match the correct tree species with the correct mushroom mycelium. Mycelium suppliers usually provide a list of appropriate tree hosts.
Thank you for reading our article on how to remove a tree stump by hand. Below I have linked to some other articles you may find useful.
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