After you cut down a tree, the stump and roots that remain can create an inconvenience or even a hazard and present an eyesore in the landscape. Pulling out or grinding the stump and major roots is strenuous and typically involves renting equipment that is expensive or difficult to use. The warm temperatures throughout Florida allow for much faster decomposition than in cooler areas, but certain practices will further hasten stump decay.
Although a stump can gradually decompose on its own over several years, piling compost, manure or another organic material or even organic-rich soil over the stump will greatly hasten decomposition by helping to keep the stump damp and warm and supplying nitrogen and microbes. Regularly watering the compost or soil so the stump is kept constantly moist is helpful. Once the stump begins to break down, regularly turn the material to ensure ample oxygen is reaching the decomposing stump.
Boring Into the Stump
To further speed up stump decomposition, drill several large holes in the stump and any major roots you can see. Pour or sprinkle a high-nitrogen fertilizer into these holes and over the stump surface. Nitrogen is typically a limiting factor in stump decomposition, as woody materials tie up a lot of nitrogen as they break down. Some commercially available produces are advertised as stump killers or chemicals that essentially burn through the wood. The effectiveness of these materials is questionable, and they interfere with the healthy activity of wood decay fungi and other microorganisms.
The root systems of many tree species will not die right away when you remove the aboveground portion of the tree, but will instead send up new sprouts or suckers from the root system. Treating these sprouts with herbicide can quickly and effectively kill suckers and the root system and largely prevent further sprouting if the chemical is applied correctly. Where herbicide use is undesirable, simply cutting the new sprouts down at or just below the soil level as soon as they appear will eventually deplete the root system's reserves.
Additional Stump Treatment Options
Grinding out much of the stump, chopping it up or digging out the bulk of the stump is helpful. The less woody material that is present and the smaller the pieces of wood are, the faster they will break down. It is also possible to incorporate a stump into the landscaping as a unique feature. You can hollow out the top of the stump and fill it with water, drill angles through the side of the stump into a hollow created at the top and use the stump as a planter, or simply cultivate vining plants next to the stump and allow them to climb up the stump. Keeping water or soil and plants in the stump also encourages faster decomposition.
- University of Minnesota Extension: Removing Trees and Stumps
- Warnell School of Forestry & Natural Resources, University of Georgia: Tree Stump Removal From Landscapes
- Franklin County Solid Waste Management District: Stump and Brush Removal
- New Mexico State University: How to Remove a Tree, and Then What to do With the Stump?
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