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Back in the spring we cut down a fruitless mulberry and hired someone to come grind the stump. When they were leaving they informed me that they poured a chemical into the hole where the remaining roots were to keep it finish killing the tree and keep it from trying to come back. They said the chemical would dissipate in a few weeks and wouldn't cause us any problems. We waited a little over a month and then worked a bunch of compost into the soil where the tree was and planted flowers. We've planted two rounds of marigolds now, but everything we plant where the tree used to be dies within a week or two. I wish I knew what they poured down there. What should I do about this?

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That looks like the perfect spot for some stepping stones to the gravel bed there :) –  wax eagle Aug 1 '11 at 15:11

2 Answers 2

up vote 13 down vote accepted

First, call the stump grinders and ask them what they used.

Then you can make a more informed decision:

  • Option 1: Wait. Depending on what they used, the potency will dissipate over time and you'll eventually be able to plant something in the area.

  • Option 2: Build up the soil above that area -- make a raised bed. Don't mix the new soil you add on top with the contaminated soil below.

  • Option 3: Remove 12-24" of soil from that area and dispose of it. Replace with fresh soil and plant. Again, don't mix the new soil with the existing subsoil.

  • Option 4: Cover that area with stone mulch and pretend you didn't want to grow anything there anyway.

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Did you ask them to pour chemicals (poison) into your landscape?

  • If yes, lesson learnt.

  • If no, they should be called back and instructed to clean up the area properly, at no cost to yourselves.

Stump grinding is ok! but growing anything it that area is going to be difficult until the remaining stump and roots breakdown (decompose) naturally. Depending on the size of the tree, that process could take years.

Pouring chemicals (poison) on the stump is going to speed up the breakdown (decompose) process, but it's still going to take at least a year or two.

If the stump isn't that big, it's much better to get it pulled or to simply dig it out (that normally results in a good weekend workout).

What can you do now? Seeing as you don't know what chemical (poison) was used, I would do something like the following:

  • Dig out as much soil as possible (is practical to-do-so).

  • Dispose of that (contaminated) soil in a responsible manner.

  • Remove, cut away, as much stump, root material as possible. The more you can remove the better.

  • Saturate that area as best you can, the more water you can flush through, the better. The water will help wash the chemical (poison) deeper into the surrounding soil and dilute it down.

  • Bring in enough 50/50 mix of top quality screened top soil and high quality compost to fill the excavated area.

  • Back-fill the excavated area with the above 50/50 mix in 4inch (100mm) thick layers. Each layer should be "lightly" tamped down.

  • The area should now be ok! to plant, but I would be very tempted to only plant shallow rooted plants in that area, at least for the next 2 or 3 years. Of course the "2 or 3 years" doesn't apply if you manage to remove all of the stump and roots (or least the vast majority).

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No, I didn't ask them to pour it in there...they informed me after it was done that they did it. I wasn't too worried about it at the time because they said it would only take a few weeks. What you're saying actually makes a lot more sense though. I'm pretty annoyed with them now. –  Shane Jul 31 '11 at 3:00

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