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Stump and Brush Removal

A fallen or cut tree, once removed, leaves behind a stump which must be managed. Once a tree is down its roots stop growing within a few weeks or even days, eventually dying.  However, some tree species may develop root sprouts (“suckers”) creating new stems from the root system. If these sprouts are allowed to grow, the root system itself can survive. Mowing over the sprouts should cause the root system to die within a few months to a year. When planning to remove the remaining stump, consider the intended use of the area where the stump lies and the time frame desired for rehabilitating the area. Please note, it is illegal to bury stumps resulting from new construction.

There are several options for removal of the remaining stump:

The stump can be left to naturally decay. This process will take from one to many years (five to 10), depending on the tree species, the size of the stump, and the soil conditions. Keeping the soil around the stump moist, and piling soil or mulch over the stump can accelerate the decaying process. Fertilizer can also be added directly to the stump prior to covering in order to hasten the natural decay process, as it helps to attract organisms that aid in decomposition. A landscaper or tree arborist should be consulted to ensure that any root disease that may be present in the stump will not be contagious to other trees. 

Stumps can also be included in the landscaping. The top can be hollowed out with a router or drill for use as a bird and butterfly habitat. Fill the hole with water and the birds will be naturally attracted to it. Climbing vines or annuals can be planted in the stump. If the stump is cut low, landscaping can simply be done around the stump. 

If appearance is not a concern, brush can simply be stacked and left to rot. As with leaves and other organic material, brush will eventually decay. If tree disease is a concern, a tree specialist should be consulted to determine if the spread of tree diseases is an issue. 

Hand digging of stumps can be very difficult and labor-intensive, even with smaller trees. If this is the method to be employed, the trunk of the tree should be left as tall as possible. This will provide the leverage necessary to loosen and eventually break the roothold as the digging proceeds. There are numerous materials available on the Internet and in landscaping references that outline methods for hand digging. A good quality digging spade, “landscape bar,” and/or a pick will be required. 

Large equipment, such as a backhoe, can also be used. Such equipment can typically work efficiently, especially on smaller stumps. Whether by hand or back-hoe, removing the main part of the root is usually recommended, leaving the lateral roots in the ground to simply decay. The stump should be “routed” (removed) to a depth that allows for the intended use of the area. If turf is to be planted, the stump area should be dug out at least 8 to 12 inches below the ground level. If landscaping or replanting is being considered, then deeper removal is recommended depending on the type of flora to be planted. A stump grinding or router machine may be required to grind the stump to 24 inches deep, or more (see below). 

Mechanical routing is the quickest method for stump removal. Stump grinding machines use “cutting teeth” to grind away at the remaining stump. Several sizes of grinding machines are available, with varying levels of power and cutter head sizes. Small stump routing machines can be rented. The machines can be dangerous, however, and the operator should be properly trained. Eye protection and safety gear is required.  If the stump is very large it is best not to rent a grinder, as they are not big enough to remove really large stumps. Small chippers can typically be rented to grind or chip brush and small limbs. Equipment rental listings may be found under “Landscape Equipment and Supplies” in the telephone directory. 

Contracting for Services
If contracting with a tree service for stump removal, the estimated depth of the root and extent of grinding required will need to be determined. Clean up and debris removal (or grinding on-site) should also be discussed. Details should be specified in writing, with costs outlined. Costs will vary depending on the size and location of the stump.
Stump and Brush Removal Services 
There are numerous listings of companies that remove and/or grind stumps and brush under “Tree Service” and “Landscape Contractors” in the telephone directory. A listing of companies that accept drop-off of brush and stumps for grinding and mulching is shown below. You must contact the company directly, prior to drop-off, to determine charges. The listing of service providers may not be inclusive and is not intended as an endorsement.

Local haulers of rubbish may also collect clean wood waste for disposal at a construction and demolition landfill. Consult the telephone directory for company listings. Local landfills will not accept stumps, however. 

Franklin County Solid Waste Management District
50 Miles Street
Greenfield, MA 01301
Tel: (413) 772-2438
MA Relay for the hearing impaired: 711 or 1-800-439-2370 (TTY/TDD)
Fax: (413) 772-3786
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