Tree stumps can be left in the ground after felling but this can lead to problems with suckering where new shoots arise from the trunk and roots.
Completely dead stumps won’t form suckers, but they can play host to root diseases such as honey fungus, so aren’t worth leaving in and taking the risk.
When to remove a stump
Tree stumps can be physically removed any time. Paying tree surgeons to remove stumps when they are felling the tree is the most convenient way to remove stumps.
Chemical stump killers need to be applied to freshly cut wood, so are best applied immediately after felling. Otherwise, they will need to be recut before the product is applied.
Physical stump removal
This is the best solution. Ideally the stump should be removed entirely, but if this is not possible alternative methods usually give satisfactory results.
For smaller trees the stumps can be pulled out with a winch. These can be hired by gardeners with the knowledge to use them safely. For leverage it is necessary to leave a good sized stub on the stump (up to 1.2m (4ft) high) rather than cutting it off at ground level.
Grubbing out by hand or mechanical mini-excavator removes the majority of the root system. Removal is easiest if trees are cut down so that a significant length of trunk remains to give leverage to help in removal. Landscape contractors are often skilled at stump removal, but you can hire mini-excavators and operators separately.
Alternatively, machines known as stump grinders will mechanically grind out the main root plate, leaving fine sawdust. Although stump grinders can be hired, they are potentially hazardous and are only for gardeners confident that they can use machinery safely. Some roots will inevitably be left in the ground but the majority should eventually rot down.
It is worth specifying how deep you would like the stump ground to. Shallow grinding, 20-25cm (8-10in), is normally sufficient for laying turf, but you should allow for deeper, 30cm (12in), or more if replanting or landscaping. Also think about what you want to do with the sawdust. It can be left to fill in the hole, used as mulch in other areas of the garden, or taken away by the contractors. Specify which of these you would prefer before the work is started and be sure to have any diseased wood removed completely.
Methods to avoid
We do not recommend burning down stumps in situ. They are usually too wet for this. Applying nitrate fertilisers also does not improve their burning qualities, or speed up rotting, even though these fertilisers are oxidising agents.
For advice and to receive a quote please contact Leaf Matters www.leafmatters.co.uk