Non-toxic method of killing a stump?

surfcityhb(10, Sunset 24)January 27, 2011

We unfortunately have to have two large eucalyptus trees removed, but because of the lack of access (too close to the house), we can't have the stumps removed.

Is there a non-toxic, or non-chemical way to kill the stumps that won't poison the soil or harm any birds or other creatures? One of the eucalypts being removed had suddenly started to die just recently anyway, so I think it probably had the psyllid (it was brown), or perhaps it drowned from the rain (other plants that drowned from the rain died green), and so I probably don't have to worry about that one. Will they die naturally from being cut down or will they sprout? (They're eucaplyptus nicholii.)


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How high from the ground is the stump?

FWIW -- I've gotten rid of almost ground-level stumps through my own "mad scientist" method. [1] Cover stump with bag[s] of fertilizer. [2]Cover with black plastic [3] Heap soil over the covered stump and surrounding area. [4] Plant a vine or other plant to cover the stump.

As I recall, it took about 2 years for the stump to rot away and become compost. I planted honeysuckle ... which grew like mad and became a whole 'nother problem. But when I dug out the honeysuckle, the tree stump had melted away to almost nothing. [few larger pieces, which broke away very easily, ditto for the root]

    Bookmark   January 27, 2011 at 3:40PM
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loribee2(CA 9)

Can you have them ground? We've had stumps ground only a few feet from our fence line and it didn't do any damage to the surrounding area at all. The grinder the guy used was small enough to fit through our 36" wide gate also. Granted, giant eucalyptus might have been more than his machine could handle, but I can't imagine that his process would be inhibited by being close to a structure.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2011 at 9:34PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

The stump-killing chemical only needs to be applied to the stump itself, but it should be applied immediately after the stump is cut so that it is absorbed by the tree. Eucs take quite a long time to rot. If you can drill some large diameter holes in the top and add bloodmeal or ammonium nitrate or some other high-n fertilizer and then cover, that will help break them down a little faster. I have a couple of Eucs we cut down 10 years ago and they are still trying to come back. No way we can get a stump grinder to the area.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2011 at 1:33PM
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surfcityhb(10, Sunset 24)

Thank you for your responses! Great ideas!

Couldn't get a stump-grinder in to grind the stumps because one stump was inbetween two air conditioners and the space was too small for the machine to do its thing without damaging the air conditioners (they could barely get in there to cut the tree down--it was a dumb place to plant a tree...), and the other was adjacent to a tiny 2-foot walkway next to the house that wasn't big enough for the grinder to even fit onto. The stumps extend only about 2-4 inches above the ground.

Again, thank you for your great responses! Much appreciated!

    Bookmark   February 3, 2011 at 5:40PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

If you get suckers growing, you can girdle them instead of cutting them off. That sometimes helps to kill a recalcitrant stump, but it takes a long time.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2011 at 9:52PM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

Potassium nitrate stump killer is not a poison. I don't think it's toxic. You drill holes in the stump and apply. You can look it up online. Then you water the stump a lot until it breaks down, but this will take years. It's a long term project.

Here is a link that might be useful: How to kill a stump with Potassium nitrate

    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 10:53AM
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If you don't want anything to grow there affterward and the space is contained, you could consider salting it so heavily it makes the soil toxic. Some prefer rock salt or epsom salts, make sure the runoff won't harm other plants.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 9:13PM
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Chicken poop is also high nitrogen, and non-toxic

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 2:45PM
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yukkuri_kame(Sunset 19 / USDA 9)

FYI - our Euc that we cut back to inches above ground last spring is over 20' tall now. I did not want it dead, just had to be taken down due to height & damaged limbs.

Now I chop & drop tons of biomass from the suckers, but I let a few go that I will coppice for wood when they reach 6-inch diameter.

Anyway, I think most of the above methods are viable. I wouldn't salt my land. And I don't think epsom salt will kill most plants, except in massive quantities. It is used as a fertilizer for many plants.

Innoculating the whole thing with compost tea and fungi would help the whole process along. I'd use compost, urine or manure, covered by a pile of wood chips, lots of water and covered with a tarp.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 3:24AM
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I have an elm stump to kill. Would painting it black kill it?

    Bookmark   October 24, 2014 at 6:41PM
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My elm has been a stump about 2 1/2 years. I covered it with plastic, and loaded woodchips on top.

After about a year, I removed the black plastic. Since then, a lot of the neighboring groundcover myoporum grew over it. This summer an elm sprout emerged, so I recovered it with a lot more woodchips.

After the resprout and the dry summer, the myoporum started to look really bad, it just couldn't compete with the other( close by & alive ) elm tree's roots. So I added even more wood chips and some horse manure, in a similar mad scientist, or just experimental fashion, as mentioned by border barb.

Now I planted succulents on top of it and added some rocks to make it look like a more naturalistic raised bed.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2014 at 1:15PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

Just make a clean cut and paint the cut end with glyphosate. It is less toxic than vinegar. It is definitely better than dumping a bunch of salt on it. You will probably only have to do it once. You won't have to struggle with piling woodchips or anything else. Just kill the stump and get it over with. Then drill some holes and load it up like Hoovb suggested.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2014 at 11:11AM
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Until it's totally gone, you could make something decorative out of it.

Otherwise, the other ideas, including drilling holes and filling it with something, work well. I have also heard that some people will burn their tree stumps (pile up dry wood next to it and keep control of the flames as it is burning, kind of like a bonfire, depending on how big your stump is). It's not dry or dead yet but get enough heat and it will still burn. Afterwards, you have a little bit less of tree stump to deal with, at least, while it may still take time to totally disappear from the ground view. And of course, you could burn it again to keep working it down.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2014 at 12:03PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

Yeah let's not start setting fires in Huntington Beach in October during a drought.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2014 at 2:29AM
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