Can Epsom Salt Be Used To Remove A Tree Stump?

By Tree Expert Codey Stout
Updated On

Are you wondering how to remove a tree stump with Epsom salt?

You’ve come to the right place!

In this Tree Triage guide, you’ll learn:

  • How does Epsom salt kill tree stumps?
  • How to kill tree stumps with Epsom salt correctly
  • How long will it take?

And much more!

Epsom Salt Used To Remove Tree Stump

So, if you’re looking for answers on how to kill a tree stump with Epsom salt, keep reading our detailed guide below to get answers to all of your questions!

Why Would You Want To Use Epsom Salt on Tree Stumps?

Perhaps you’ve cut down an unwanted tree and hauled away all that debris. You probably think that your work is over. Yet an even bigger job may await you: getting rid of the tree stump.

Tree stumps are not much fun to look at, and can also pose a tripping hazard. Furthermore, leaving the stump in the ground will prevent you from planting something else in its place.

Ugly tree stump

But the biggest reason to remove your stump is to avoid having another tree — or trees — grow up out of it. Felling a tree only removes the top portion, but the root system of a mature tree can reach far beyond the drip line of the tree itself. 

Tree roots cling to life and seek out sources of nutrition to aid in regrowth. They can even graft their roots to the root systems of other living trees. 

Stumps may remain alive long after you’ve cut down the tree, and saplings often emerge from the stump and can grow into full trees again if not removed.

In fact, the technique of cutting trees down to a stump and letting them regrow is called coppicing, it’s a traditional woodland management technique and many trees can be coppiced for timber harvesting or other reasons and successfully regrow.

By far the easiest way to remove a stump is to use a stump grinding machine. It can grind out a stump to 12 inches below ground level in minutes. Stump grinders, however, require a certain amount of know-how, and can be dangerous if not used by an experienced professional. We recommend contacting one of our tree removal specialists if you choose to go that route.

Removing a stump by digging it out can be far more time-consuming and labor-intensive than it might appear at first. And the use of toxins like herbicides and bleach can be harmful to your garden and the environment.

One relatively simple and budget-friendly way any homeowner can remove a stump is by using Epsom salts. Epsom salt, or magnesium sulfate, is often used as a soil conditioner in gardening, as well as being a popular home remedy. 

According to Washington State University, it helps to rectify a magnesium or sulfur deficiency and can increase yields and blooms in plants growing in deficient soil.

How To Remove A Tree Stump With Epsom Salt

There are two ways you can remove tree stumps using Epsom salts. The first method involves drilling holes into the top of the stump.

The second method involves soaking the stump in a strong Epsom salt solution.

Either way, it is best if the stump has been cut as close to the ground as possible, either with a chainsaw or bow saw.

The Drilling Method

One of the best methods for removing a tree stump with salt is to drill holes into the stump that allow the salt to permeate deeper into the wood.

  • Using a 1-inch drill bit, drill several holes into the top of the stump, leaving a few inches between each hole. Drill as deeply as you can. Ideally, holes should have a minimum depth of 8 inches.
  • Pour Epsom salt directly into the drilled holes, filling them to the top.
  • Add enough water to the drill holes to moisten the salt. Be careful not to add too much water, which will cause all salt to run off and lose its potency.
  • Cover the stump with a tarp. This will prevent rainwater from filling the holes and excessively diluting the Epsom salts.
  • Over time, this will draw the moisture out of the stump, causing it to rot more quickly and preventing it from sprouting up again.
  • Adding mulch over the tarp will help prevent it from blowing away, and also make the site a little easier on the eye.
  • Repeat the process every week or two until the stump is dead. Pale wood typically still has life left in it, while dark and brittle wood is dead.

Additionally, if tree roots extend from the side of the stump, they too can be drilled and filled with Epsom salts. 

If the stump is freshly cut, the whole surface of the stump can also be covered with a thick layer of Epsom salts – in addition to the drill holes being filled – to speed up the drying process.

This video below explains in detail how to carry out the drilling method.

YouTube video

The Soaking Method

SF Gate suggests mixing a gallon of Epsom salt with two gallons of water in a five-gallon bucket. Epsom salt is very soluble and should mix quite well.

  • Pour the solution directly on the stump, the roots and its surrounding area.
  • Use a tarpaulin to cover the stump and the surrounding area. As with the drilling method, adding mulch to the tarp will help weigh it down, and help the appearance of your yard.
  • Apply this treatment to the stump once a week till the stump dries out.

Once the stump has dried up and rotted out sufficiently, it can then be dug up and disposed of without too much trouble.

To do this, you will need the following tools:

  • A shovel
  • An ax or hatchet
  • A pick

First, dig around the base of the stump with a shovel. Then, dig along the length of the roots. Follow the roots from where they are exposed at the base of the stump. Some of the roots may angle down into the ground, requiring more digging.

Cut the exposed roots near the base of the stump with an ax. Once the roots are severed from the stump, the stump will be easier to get out of the ground. Move the stump back and forth until it works free from the ground.

Pry the exposed roots from the ground with a pick. Work along the length of each root until the majority of the root can be pulled from the ground. You do not need to remove the entire root.

The last step is to repurpose the space where the stump once was. Fill the hole you have left with topsoil and spread grass seed over it, or create a new flower bed in its place.

After you have successfully used Epsom Salt to remove the stump from your property, you will need to dispose of the stump properly. 

Your city may not necessarily pick it up along with other yard waste, so be sure that you’ve researched how to properly dispose of the remains of your stump. Generally, local recycling centers will accept them.

How Does Epsom Salt Kill Tree Stumps?

Epsom salt can also be quite useful in the removal of tree stumps. According to the organization Beginning Farmers, applying Epsom salt to a tree stump forces dehydration to occur which then causes it to die.

Epsom salt draws moisture away from the stump, forcing it to die and become brittle. It then can be removed relatively easily by using an ax, shovel, and pick. 

The use of Epsom salt to rot stumps is also safer for your garden, and the environment, than the use of chemical fertilizers or stump removers.

How Long Does It Take For Epsom Salt To Kill A Tree Stump?

The time it takes for the stump to rot will depend on the tree species and the size of the stump. Generally speaking, the use of Epsom salt should accelerate the decomposition process to 6-12 months, as opposed to three to seven years if you were to allow the stump to rot naturally.

What Are The Benefits Of Using Epsom Salt For Stump Removal?

Epsom salts provide a relatively simple, low-cost, DIY solution for tree stump removal.

Unlike other methods, such as using a stump grinder or digging out the stump, the use of Epsom salts can be carried out with a minimum of physical effort.

Salted stump

Another benefit of using Epsom salt to kill a tree stump, according to Gardening Know How, is that it poses little danger to your yard or garden, unlike most commercial fertilizers or chemical tree stump killers.

When Should You Hire A Professional To Remove A Tree Stump?

Removing your tree stump with Epsom salts is relatively easy, but it can be a lengthy process. You may want the job taken care of sooner rather than later. 

Perhaps that trunk in your yard is an eyesore, a tripping hazard, or maybe the season is right to plant something else in its place.

These days, there are a wide variety of stump grinding machines available — some so large they need to be towed by a truck, and others small enough to be easily carried through your home. 

Our tree service professionals will know just the tool for removing your stump as safely, efficiently, and cheaply as possible.

Meet Your Tree Expert

Codey Stout

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