How to Remove a Tree Stump Without a Stump Grinder

posted on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 in How To

Remove Tree Stump

Trees are stubborn. You can cut them down but their stumps are still firmly rooted in the ground. That probably isn’t what you had in mind when you set out to clear your land

Old stumps are unsightly and difficult to mow around. If a stump is cut low to the ground, it might be more hidden in the grass but it’s a hazard that can damage your lawn mower.

The pros use stump grinders to get the job done. But that takes extra equipment and expense. If you’re looking to save in those two areas, there are a few ways to get rid of tree stumps with the tools and equipment already on your farm.

The Easy Way – Using Stump Removal Chemicals

The easiest way to get rid of a tree stump is to let it decompose naturally. That can take up to seven years or more, depending on the type of tree. Few property owners have the patience to wait for that.

Chemical tree stump killer speeds up the process. Your stump will be gone in months — maybe even weeks.

Cut the stump as close to the ground as you can with a chainsaw. Attach the widest and longest bit to your power drill and drill multiple holes into the stump. The more holes, the more spots that’ll decompose faster. Fill the holes with water and a stump killer solution. Soak the ground all around the stump and cover it with a tarp to hold in the moisture.

Most stump killer products contain potassium nitrate. You can use other sources of nitrogen that you have handy. Commercial fertilizer and even cow manure have enough nitrates to aid decomposition.

The Hard Way – Removing Tree Stumps by Hand

If you can’t stand to wait for weeks or months, you can get it done in a day — with a good amount of elbow grease.

In this case, you want your stump taller to give you more leverage. So don’t cut it to the ground with a chainsaw. Dig all around the stump with a spade and clear out the soil. Use a mattock, a type of pickax with a horizontal blade, to chop through the roots. You’ll probably have to use an ax or bow saw to slice through the taproot — the vertical, center root where every other root sprouts from.

Make sure that you cleared enough dirt away so that you’re only hitting the tree. Striking the ground will dull your blade. Chop your way towards the center from multiple angles until you’re clear through the stump. Fill the hole back up with dirt to cover where the tree once stood.

If the stump is small enough, you can save a little time and sweat with a brush grubber. These tools can easily rip out skinny trees with trunks of five inches or less. The brush grubber grabs onto the tree and attaches to the hitch on your utility vehicle or truck so you can tear out the tree with ease.

The John Deere Way – Digging Out Stumps With Your Tractor

Big stumps call for bigger tools. They aren’t worth the sweat equity to remove by hand. Both John Deere utility tractors and compact utility tractors have powerful backhoe attachments that you can add-on to remove large tree stumps. The backhoe can’t do it all for you — you'll still need a shovel, an ax, and a chainsaw — but you’ll save hours digging around that stump if you let the tractor do the work. 

Back your tractor up to the stump, put it in neutral, and set the parking brake. Turn the seat around to face the working area. Lower the stabilizer feet for more leverage and remove the transport locking pins. Then get digging. You should only have to reposition your tractor once to dig around all sides. 

Once you have the stump and roots exposed, free the roots by loosening up the soil around them with the shovel. Use the chainsaw and ax to cut away the roots and free the stump. Again, avoid cutting into the soil so you don’t dull your tools. 

Your tractor’s also handy for picking the stump up out of the hole and hauling it away. Attach a ratchet wench strap or heavy-duty chain to both the stump and the bucket. Lift the stump out of the hole and dispose of it properly. Fill in the hole with the soil you dug out at the start.

A tractor isn’t the only piece of equipment that can successfully remove big stumps. John Deere compact track loaders and skid-steer loaders can be paired with an attachment specifically designed for the job — a stump shredder. If you have a loader helping out on your farm, a John Deere SS30 Stump Shredder can transform it into a stump removal machine, getting rid of tree stumps faster and safer than compact tree stump grinders or competitor attachments.

Chemicals, manpower, or horsepower — whichever method you use, that stubborn stump will be gone. And you’ll have transformed an eyesore into smooth pasture or a spot for fresh grass faster than Mother Nature herself could’ve managed.

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