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As a skeptic, I am generally wary of any claims that say something that is generally hard is made easy by a product. I was wondering if anyone could offer some advice if they have experience with various stump removing chemicals on the market (not looking for product specific advice). Assuming that one follows the directions on the product, what is its efficacy?

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up vote 18 down vote accepted

Take a look at this question, Nothing will grow where tree was, here on SE.

Quote: 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).

If the stump is of a reasonable size, have you considered stumping grinding as an option?

If you go the stump grinding route, make sure you specify a minimum "grind" depth. Bear in mind, the deeper you want the stump grinded the more it may cost you.

  • A "bad" stump grinding service will grind to just below the surface, then cover it over with some soil.

  • A "good" stump grinding service with grind to a depth of 12 to 18inches (300 to 450mm).

    • It is my understanding 18 to 24inches (450 to 600mm) is about the maximum depth that most stump grinders will grind to, without considerable extra work... Someone please correct me if I'm wrong on this piece of information.
  • If you want to grind it yourself, you should be able to hire a stump grinder from a local tool hire shop.

    • The machine is easy enough to use (just takes a little bit of getting use to), results in a few hours of fairly hard-work for yourself (even though the machine is doing the real work).
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Thank you. Exactly what I was looking for! – Larian LeQuella Aug 26 '11 at 15:35
If you go the DIY route and you have a tractor (or can borrow one), a CAT I 3PH / PTO grinder will save you a ton of work. – bstpierre Aug 26 '11 at 16:33
Ignoring side effects, if the breakdown takes a year or two, I would consider it highly effective compared to how long stumps take to break down naturally. (Decades?) Especially if they aren't in a place where they get a lot of moisture. – bstpierre Aug 26 '11 at 16:36
@bstpierre, "but it's still going to take at least a year or two", I think I should probably add a disclaimer to that statement ie One or two years is the absolutely minimum it will take for a stump to breakdown after being treated with a "stump chemical remover" prodcut... – Mike Perry Aug 26 '11 at 16:58
Most stump removal chemicals are not "poison", but potassium nitrate. A strong fertilizer (60-0-40 NPK). That'll promote fungal growth in the stump, but if you use too much, it'll also burn any plant you put in the spot where the stump was. Dilution of the fertilizer by extensive watering, or dispersal and dilution of soil in the hot-spot should get plants growing where the tree once was. – Wayfaring Stranger Jan 22 '15 at 14:11

I know that the questions asks about the efficacy of stump removal chemicals, however, I assume the intention is to gain information on removing a stump.

A friend of mine just hired a 40lb jack hammer from Home Depot for $55 for 4 hours and said that it was the perfect tool to quickly and efficiently dig up his stump. Personally I thought this was an ingenuous idea and wanted to share it.

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As Mike Perry pointed out, this question on this site is a good first hand account of what happens when you use stump removal chemicals.

All that most chemicals provide is a very high amount of nitrogen. They're just glorified, over priced fertilizers and I'll bet that most products have potassium nitrate as their main ingredient. Typically several deep holes are drilled into the stump and the chemical is poured down them. Given that tree stumps will definitely rot in a high nitrogen + moisture environment, there is no question of whether these products will work or not. They will, although the process might take from anywhere from one to four years.

However, the question that needs to be asked is what is their effect on the surrounding soil. Depending on the type, trees have roots that go very deep into the ground or cover a large area at a relatively shallow depth (see this answer for some info). Since these chemicals get transported to the very tips of the roots, you'll find that over time, a large portion of your garden is unfit for growing anything due to the extremely high levels of nitrogen in the soil (will "burn" everything). The levels are high enough (and the effect extends deep enough) that normal gardening techniques like adding carbon/manure, etc to alter the ratios will not work. That ground is dead for a few years.

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