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There can be many reasons for removing a tree root. Regardless of whether the space is needed for other projects in the garden or the tree has died, such a project must be well thought out, as the roots are firmly planted deep in the earth. Young saplings can be dug up with a shovel, but this is completely different with an old oak tree and heavy equipment is sometimes required here.


Which methods are available?

If you want to professionally dig up a tree stump and its associated roots from the garden, a multitude of aspects have to be considered. Removing the underground parts of the tree takes either a lot of time or a lot of force and cannot be done easily unless the tree root is only a few years old. The following applies here: the older the tree is, the deeper the roots reach and therefore the effort is greater. Because of this, a variety of practices suitable for root removal have evolved.

  • Using tools and excavators
  • milling
  • Lift tree stump out of the ground
  • Rotting by compost, salts, calcium cyanamide based fertilizers or naturally
  • hire a specialist

Of course, hiring a professional is only necessary if you don't have the strength or time yourself, or if you don't want to do the work yourself. You should note that the costs are calculated depending on the age of the tree and the resulting effort. As such, it may be worth digging up or trimming the stump yourself if you're short on funds or the tree is very large. In addition to the above methods, there are other approaches that some people use, but should be avoided at all costs.

  • Burn out stump
  • Chemistry: Applications such as petroleum in combination with fertilizer or hydrochloric acid
  • firecrackers
  • magnesium powder

Such projects, especially with chemicals, are just dangerous and cause more trouble than help in the area of root removal. In addition, permits are required if a campfire is to be lit in your own garden, and fireworks can quickly lead to problems with the police or neighbors. Chemical applications such as magnesium powder or fertilizer mixtures and fuels are absolutely to be avoided, as these destroy numerous, important microorganisms in the garden and make the location of the former tree unusable for years. For this reason, you should only use the applications mentioned above, as they do not affect the garden and are harmless if done correctly.

Tip: You can also integrate the tree stump into the garden as a decorative element and thus create a shelter for animals and insects. There is also something fairytale about them when they are covered with moss, ivy or other plants.


Permission required?

Permission is not required for stump removal. However, a permit may be required for felling the tree, which you should find out from your local municipal office before you start your project. Each federal state and many districts have their own regulations. In addition, trees in Germany may only be felled between October 1st and February 28th, but the stump may be removed throughout the year. If you want to remove a whole tree at once, this period is perfect.


Necessary preparations

If you choose the methods of excavation and processing by tools and excavators, you should do the following before work.

  • relocate sensitive plants nearby or protect them from splintering wood with tarpaulins
  • Move garden decorations or seating out of the way
  • Prepare work equipment and protective clothing such as gloves, sturdy shoes and safety goggles

tree stump

dig up a tree stump

One of the easiest, but most strenuous ways to get the tree root out of the garden is to lift out the entire stump with the entire root system. This is particularly useful for species with thin trunks (maximum 30 centimeters) and shallow or weak roots, such as the following trees.

  • spruces
  • trees of life
  • conifers

All you need to lift the tree root is a spade, a sharpened axe, a shovel and someone with a lot of strength. In order to properly perform the leverage mechanism, it is imperative that you leave 150 centimeters of the trunk, otherwise not enough force can be applied for the leverage effect. To do this, follow the steps below.

1st step:

  • use the spade to free the tree root from the soil until you have exposed most of the root system
  • while doing so, remove any stones that might get in the way

2nd step:

  • cut through roots with spade or ax if thicker
  • feel free to hit it a bit harder, as the ground won't suffer from the ax's impact

3rd step:

  • after you've dissected most of the root system, you'll have to grab the trunk and rock it back and forth until it progressively pulls away from the soil
  • several hands can lend a hand here to make the work easier

4th step:

  • if you do step 3 enough times, you will find the stump getting easier and easier to lift out of the ground
  • as soon as this happens, the remaining roots tear off automatically and the tree root can be disposed of

5th step:

  • if the root is too heavy, it may be due to the soil in the root network
  • you can remove this with either a garden hose or a spade

6th step:

  • you can either let the remaining roots rot in the ground or dig them out

7th step:

  • then you can fill the hole back up with soil and use it for other purposes

stump grinder

Use the stump grinder

If you decide to remove the tree root with the stump grinder, you can easily remove large pieces of root in a short time and do not have to dispose of large pieces of root and stumps. The stump grinder gradually removes the roots, leaving only wood shavings. When using it, proceed as follows.

1st step:

  • again expose the tree root with the spade
  • the deeper you go, the more root you can dig up later
  • also use a shovel if the tree stump is particularly large

2nd step:

  • remove all stones
  • these could damage the tiller blade

3rd step:

  • gradually remove the tree root
  • depending on the size, the time required varies drastically

4th step:

  • either dig up the remaining pieces of root or let them rot in the ground
  • then fill in the hole after discarding the wood chips

Tip: You can rent root cutters in many hardware stores for several hours, usually a day. You can also get instructions on how to use the device right away.


saws and excavators

The third variant, in which you use heavy equipment, is to expose the tree root and then use the chainsaw. Of course, you need a chainsaw and a mini excavator for the garden, which you can rent from hardware stores or special providers. If you do not know how such a vehicle is operated, you can be instructed or hire an excavator operator. This method is particularly suitable for taproots and heartroots. Proceed as shown below.

1st step:

  • expose the main root

2nd step:

  • gradually dismember the tree root with the chainsaw
  • You can remove large pieces with the excavator
  • You do not have to remove secondary roots, they will rot

3rd step:

  • after dismantling the root, you can use the excavator to transport the pieces to the container

Notice: Before doing this, be sure to contact a gardening expert to check your soil for pipes and wires so you don't damage them. A broken pipe is not cheap!


Allow the tree stump to rot

Decomposing the tree root is suitable for all tree species and requires little effort. The following means are available to you if you do not want to let the tree roots decompose naturally.

  • Salts (Epsom salt, rock salt, epsomite)
  • compost
  • Calcium cyanamide fertilizer

The salts and fertilizer are particularly good for killing and then decomposing the still living tree root. The compost can be used for live and dead roots, but on average it takes several years for the root to really rot. Proceed as follows when rotting.

1st step:

  • use a wood drill or chainsaw and cut either a checkerboard pattern or holes in the surface of the tree root
  • the holes should be up to 30 centimeters deep and about 2 centimeters apart
  • the chainsaw cuts should end just above the ground

2nd step:

  • then fill them with the selected agent, but not completely
  • Compost is particularly suitable here for the checkerboard pattern, while the salts and fertilizer should be filled into the holes

3rd step:

  • then seal the holes with candle wax if you used Epsom salts or fertilizer
  • you don't need this with compost

4th step:

  • then cover the tree root with an opaque tarpaulin that does not let any light through
  • this will prevent the stump from being expelled further and the decomposition process will be accelerated

5th step:

  • after that, wait for the trunk to decompose
  • look under the tarpaulin again next year and check the condition of the roots


Dispose of properly

The tree roots are not disposed of with household waste or compost. To do this, you must either use the services of a waste disposal company or take the root to the composting plant or recycling center in your area yourself. Depending on the service, different prices are charged for disposal.

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