Garden & Outdoor

How To Kill a Tree Stump

a tree stump in the grass

Whether you’ve cut down an unwanted tree or it’s fallen due to disease, the root system will still be very much alive – and will do its best to regenerate. That’s why it’s important to know how to kill a tree stump properly, to ensure you prevent new shoots from establishing.

Not killing a tree stump properly and leaving a stump in situ is not only a trip hazard, but it can encourage unwanted insects and fungus into your garden. To help you out, we have created this handy guide to help you learn the best way to kill a tree stump.

Before starting, it’s recommended that you read our DIY Safety Tips guide to keep yourself safe.

Let’s start with what you’ll need.



Turn out the lights

One of the easiest ways to kill a tree stump is by covering it with a thick, plastic sheet will keep out sunlight and rain – depriving it of the essentials it needs to survive.

Keep an eye on it and cut off any shoots or saplings that pop up. It’s a simple, safe and inexpensive method – but it could take up to six months or more for it to die off completely.

Epsom or rock salt

Adding salt is a great way to kill a tree stump quickly.

To start, you’ll need an electric drill and the biggest drill bit you can find. Or alternatively, you can use an axe.

  • Drill lots of deep holes into the stump / make deep incisions with an axe.
  • If there are roots above ground, make holes / chop into these as well.
  • Fill the holes with Epsom or rock salt, packing it in tightly.
  • Seal the holes by dripping on candle wax – this stops the salt from getting blown around the garden and harming other plants.
  • Cover the tree stump with a plastic sheet or tarpaulin.
  • Check on it every couple of weeks – when it’s dead, it will break up easily.

Chemical stump killersTree stump killer chemical

These need to be applied to a freshly cut tree stump to be effective. So, if yours has been there a while, you’ll need to re-cut it.

Autumn and Winter are the best seasons to apply chemical killers, usually by brushing them onto the cut surface or pouring into the drilled holes – but always follow the specific instructions on the product you choose.

Removing the dead stump

Dead wood will crumble easily and can be dug out with a spade.

Start by filling the remaining hole with soil. If you’ve used salt or chemicals – make sure all the dead wood is removed, disposed of safely, and kept away from the rest of your garden.

Using a stump grinder

a tree stump grinder

If time is of the essence, you can kill a tree stump by grinding it into sawdust. It’s messy and noisy, but it’s certainly the best way to kill a tree stump fast.

A stump grinder is a serious piece of kit – so, if you don’t feel confident handling one, get a professional in.

When using a stump grinder:

  • Use safety boots, ear protection, goggles and mask.
  • Make sure pets and children are well away.
  • Cut the stump back, as close to the ground as possible, with a chainsaw.
  • Move the grinder slowly over the surface of the tree stump, working your way down the main root plate as far as possible.
  • Grind down any roots above ground.
  • Shovel out the sawdust and fill in the hole with soil – the sawdust makes great mulch.

And there you have it, that’s how to kill a tree stump. Once the unsightly stump is gone, you can spruce up the area with some fresh plants or even start a vegetable garden in its place. Check out our guide on the best vegetables to grow in your garden for more information. 



Writer and expert