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

  • Tree Stump
    Removing tree stumps doesn’t have to be a long, difficult process.
    Photo by Fotolia/Vasily Merkhushev

  • Tree Stump

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

4/20/2019 10:47:25 AM

My Experience, NO CHEMICALS, Drilling, Hacking or Toil..... My Grand kids love Smoors.... I Build a Campfire over the Stump and after the Second or Third 'Sing-along Campfire' the old stump is GONE! If you live in city and can't build an OPEN FIRE....Then resort to BBQ charcoal, this does the same thing. BE patient, it may take 2 or more burnings, especially if the stump is 'GREEN'.

2/19/2019 11:40:45 PM

med pilot Using a stump grinder may be faster but is much more energy intensive -- for both the machine and me. As long as the stump isn't in my way, I much prefer letting it rot -- with a boost. Great article!

7/20/2018 11:57:02 AM

The “How to Rot a Stump” article was excellent. If you are willing to put up with the stump a little longer you can buy mycelium online for mushrooms like shitake. You put the mycelium mixed with some wood dowels in a cool place and keep it moist until the dowels are completely infested (must be a better word for this). Then you drill dowel sized holes in the sapwood around the periphery of the stump. Drive the dowels in flush and seal with wax or some non chemical sealer. You should be able to harvest mushrooms for several years before the stump is completely consumed. For more information I recommend books by Paul Stamets.


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