How to Rot a Stump for Easy Removal

Consider this simple solution for removing tree stumps: Rot the stump by inoculating it with mycelium.

| August/September 2015

I suggest that folks with a troublesome tree stump call upon their mycelial friends.

First, make sure the stump is dead by waiting at least a month after cutting the tree. Create a few holes in the top of the stump using a drill or a wood splitter. Surround the stump with a waterproof “fence” that’s about 2 feet higher than the top of the stump. Plastic 5-gallon buckets with the bottoms removed are great for small to medium stumps, and the top half of a plastic barrel works well for large stumps.

Next, collect moist, rotting mulch that’s laced with white fungal mycelia. You can obtain this mulch from any decomposing wood material that has white strands visible on its dark, moist side. I collect this locally because I can see for myself that it’s already been quietly working to turn wood into compost. Fill in the area between the stump and the fence with the mulch, and pack it lightly with your foot or a piece of lumber until it’s completely covered. Give it one nice initial soaking, and then periodically add water. You don’t want the inoculated pile to dry out, but you don’t want to turn it into a swamp, either.

You can give the rotting process a boost by adding a nitrogen source after the mycelium has had a chance to penetrate the new wood, which usually takes about three months. Mix a 1/2-cup of blood meal or fish emulsion, or a few scoops of chicken litter, into the wood mulch two or three times over the course of a year. Re-soak the mixture with water after each addition.

Within six months to a year, most stumps, regardless of species, will be easily workable. Remove the waterproof corral and mulch. Even if the nuisance stump hasn’t totally disintegrated, it will at least be soft and spongy. Break any surface snags by whacking them a few times with the back of an axe or a sledgehammer. Pound the surface of the stump until it’s level with the ground, and spread the mycelium mat around the area. Over time a hole will emerge as the stump continues to decay. Large roots will also decay and possibly cause depressions. Be sure to fill in these depressions with dirt to prevent accidents.

J. Dwaine Phifer
Cleveland, North Carolina

9/1/2015 2:54:41 PM

Oh hey, what an great tip that was provided about removing a stump. Especially in using the tactic of rotting the stump in order to remove it easily. I wonder if the tree removal service that my wife contacted would be able to do this as well.

8/18/2015 7:17:32 PM

A really good article Lime (ground limestone) also helps. Trees store acid in their wood and bark to prevent fungi from rotting them, and the mycelium also produces acid as a waste product, impairing it's own growth. The lime will raise the Ph enough to neutralize these acids and best sallow for faster decay, but not so much that it interferes with growth, which wood ashes might. I grow mushrooms and would recommend delicious Garden Giant (Stropharia rugoso annulata) as the mushroom capable of digesting the most types of deciduous and conifer trees. Mother Earth, since this is an online article, maybe your author would like to include these suggestions. :) Jef

8/18/2015 4:13:52 PM

Gone in a year? Egads, I can rent a stump grinder and have it gone in an hour, which includes the time needed to pickup and return the grinder.

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