What Kills Tree Stumps Naturally?

What Kills Tree Stumps Naturally?

Removing tree stumps naturally, without resorting to harsh chemicals, involves methods that encourage the stump to decompose at a faster rate than it would on its own. These methods are environmentally friendly and, while slower than chemical solutions, can effectively eliminate stumps with patience and minimal impact on the surrounding ecosystem.

Here are several natural methods to kill tree stumps…

1. Epsom Salt or Rock Salt

Both Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) and rock salt (sodium chloride) can dehydrate the stump, drawing out moisture and inhibiting its ability to sustain growth.

  • How to Use – Drill holes into the stump’s top and sides, fill them with salt, and add water to help the salt penetrate the wood. Cover the stump to keep it moist and encourage the salt to dissolve. Reapply every few weeks until the stump is dead and starts to decompose.

2. Physical Removal by Hand

For smaller stumps, you might be able to remove them using hand tools. This method requires significant physical effort but avoids the use of chemicals.

  • Tools Needed – Dig around the stump with a shovel to expose roots, then use a saw, axe, or pruning shears to cut through them. A mattock can help loosen the soil and roots, making it easier to pull the stump out.

3. Burning

Where permitted, carefully burning the stump can reduce it to ash and make it easier to remove. This method must be used with caution due to the risk of uncontrolled fire.

  • How to Use – Create a controlled fire on top of the stump, ensuring safety measures are in place. Some people choose to accelerate the process by first treating the stump with a natural accelerant like vegetable oil.

4. Using a Stump Grinder

While not entirely “natural,” using a mechanical stump grinder is a non-chemical way to remove a stump. Rental shops often offer stump grinders for DIY projects.

  • How to Use – Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to grind the stump below the soil level. This method can be labor-intensive but avoids chemicals.

5. Encouraging Natural Decay

Promoting natural decay involves creating conditions that accelerate the breakdown process, primarily by fostering fungal growth.

  • How to Use – Keep the stump moist (but not waterlogged), cover it with organic material (like mulch, compost, or manure), and allow nature to take its course. Drilling holes in the stump and filling them with nitrogen-rich materials can also promote decay.

6. Planting Mushrooms

Some homeowners have successfully used mushroom spores to colonize tree stumps, which not only helps break down the wood but can also yield edible mushrooms.

  • How to Use – Purchase mushroom plug spawn from a gardening supply store, drill holes in the stump, insert the plugs, and keep the area moist. Oyster mushrooms are a common choice for this method.


  • Time – Natural methods generally take longer than chemical treatments, often requiring several months to a few years for complete decomposition.
  • Safety – Even with natural methods, safety is important. Use protective gear as needed, especially when handling tools or managing a fire.

Natural stump removal methods offer a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to chemical stump killers, aligning with gardening practices that aim to minimize environmental impact. While these methods may require more time and patience, they can effectively eliminate tree stumps and enrich your garden’s ecosystem in the process.