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Tree & Stump Removal

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January 4, 2019

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service. 

Amy Myers: Today, we're talking about tree and stump removal. Hello, I'm Amy Taylor, and welcome to Farm and Family. Today, we're speaking with Jason Gordon, Mississippi State University Extension Service, Forestry Specialist. 

Jason, there are several reasons for the necessity of tree and stump removal, but what's the most important reason?

Jason Gordon: The most important thing to consider, of course, is safety. Considering public liability for injuries is ample justification for removal of a tree. Trees could be removed to prevent the spread of harmful insects, disease, or vegetation that may be harmful to the environment as well. 

Finally, that it's worth removing a tree for aesthetics. You want to remove a particular tree or a stump especially after a storm that may have damaged that tree, aesthetically, both for safety and to make it look better in your yard.

Stumps are defined as the lower portion of the tree up to a maximum height of about four feet that remains after the rest of the tree, the canopy, has been cut off. A lot of times, we spend a lot of money having a tree removed only to have that ugly stump left behind, so we want to get rid of it. There's really no cheap and easy, quick method.

Amy Myers: What exactly do you mean when you refer to the stump removal area?

Jason Gordon: If it's a street tree, the stump removal area is generally between the sidewalk and the curb. For trees planted in an open space like in the middle of a yard, the area for stump removal is that which causes the surface of the ground to be a little bit higher than the adjacent grade. You're going to see this elevation there around the root area. Roots within the stump removal area should be taken out as deep as about two feet below the finished grade.

Amy Myers: How does one remove a tree stump?

Jason Gordon: If you have the patience, rotting is the best and, really, the best and cheapest and easiest method of stump removal. The reason I say it's the best is because it really gets rid of all that tree. Some trees, you've seen crepe myrtle that sprout at the base, and if you let it rot away, then that will cease to occur.

The decaying process can be accelerated by supplying the fungi that are eating away that trunk with warm temperatures and moisture. You can cover the stump with a plastic tarp, and that will help speed up that decay process. It can also be sped up by boring large vertical holes at least one inch in diameter into the stump. That creates more surface area, allows that fungi to get into the stump better.

In addition, you can add a small amount of nitrogen fertilizer that helps speed up the decay process. It helps those organisms, gives them more energy essentially to engage in that decaying process. You want to avoid adding large amounts of fertilizer, because fungi can, like other plants, can be burned when over fertilized. 

The speed of decay will greatly depend on the species of tree. Some wood like cypress, for example, is very resistant to fungi, and so it takes longer.

Now, the quickest method of stump removal is simply digging and cutting the stump out of the ground. Burning has been a method. A lot of people we see in Mississippi burn stumps, and they add petroleum to help the burning process. Now that can be dangerous. Sometimes, it can be against ordinances, and it can also permanently pollute the soil, so it's not always the best way to do it, particularly, if you're in more of an urban area.

Another way to have a tree stump removed is to call a tree surgeon, and he can use a machine to remove the stump. It's called a stump grinder, and he grinds it into small chips, and then he takes those chips away. This process, while very quick, it can be fairly expensive.

You can also go and rent a stump grinder yourself. You have to follow all the correct safety procedures, of course, but it can be a few hundred dollars. You might want to consider sharing this cost with a few neighbors who have lost trees also.

There's chemicals for sale which can claim to be effective in stump removal. Most of these have been tested and found to be fairly ineffective. There's really no magical chemicals on the market which will dissolve a stump in a few days. 

If you don't feel like going through the hassle of removing a tree stump, you can also make good use of it in the landscape, turn it into an interesting container for growing plants. You can even plant, and this happens out in nature, you can plant a new tree within that stump. Dig out that stump a little bit and make a bowl and then plant a seedling in there. But, potted plants placed on a tree stump can really help that stump blend into the landscape.

Amy Myers: What do you do once the stump is removed?

Jason Gordon: The main thing I have to say about that is that there's going to be hole or depression resulting from the removal of the work. Even if you fill that in immediately after, it will start to subside and sink and become more compacted. You really want to fill it well with topsoil. You don't want to use chips or leaves or brush or sawdust or tree debris as a filler, but you need to get that really compacted in that hole, so that it doesn't draw down.

Amy Myers: Today, we have been speaking with Jason Gordon, forestry specialist. I'm Amy Taylor, and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day.

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

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