Stump Removal Hack: Epsom Salt

If you have any experience with removing a stump, you know what a headache it can be. It will either cost you hours, possibly days, of backbreaking, arduous labor, or way too much money to pay someone to do it for you.

No matter how successful you are at cutting down a tree, the truck is a whole different story. Part of what makes stump removal so difficult is that a well-established root network will keep that stump alive, and, if not dealt with, will continue to grow and even sprout off new shoots. There are chemicals that can kill a stump and make the removal easier, but there are many disadvantages to these.

For instance, rock salt or caustic lye are often used to dry out the wood, making it easier to remove. But these will leave high levels of sodium in the soil, which might make the soil impossible to plant in after you’ve removed the stump. Potassium nitrate, on the other hand, which is another common stump removal chemical, can help speed along decomposition, but often fail to fully kill the stump.

Enter Epsom salt. Epsom salt is a wonderful tool for the organic gardener and homesteader, and it can aid tremendously in the removal of a stubborn stump. Otherwise known as magnesium sulfate, Epsom salt will draw moisture out of the wood, which will slowly kill the tree and root system.

Not only will this successfully kill a living stump, it will also actually improve the soil it’s being removed from, as opposed to the other chemicals you might consider using. It adds magnesium and sulfur to the soil, which are great for plants.

What You Need

  • 100% Epsom salt
  • electric drill with 1″ spade bit
  • mattock or grub hoe
  • water

How To Use 

It’s very simple to apply the Epsom salt to a stump to aid with removal.

  1.  Drill holes all over the top of the stump. Begin drilling 3″ from the perimeter of the stump, and space each hole around 3-4″ apart from each other. Drill as deeply as you can, you’ll want them to be at least 8″ deep.
  2. Pour the Epsom salt in all the holes.
  3. Add enough water to each hole to moisten the Epsom salt. The water will then disperse the salt throughout the cells of the tree, drying them out and, subsequently killing them.
  4. Use your mattock or grub hoe to uncover as much of the root structure as you can.
  5. Pour Epsom salt all over these roots, to prevent nutrients and moisture from being carried to the base of the tree.

Now, you wait. Depending on the size of the stump, it could take up to a few months to die, in this case, you’ll want to re-apply Epsom salt every three weeks.

Look for the signs that the stump is dead: dark, brittle wood is a good sign, soft, light wood will need more Epsom salt.

Hope this is helpful for the removal of any stubborn, well-established stumps on your property.

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