Landscaping & Yard Care

Tree Stump Removal Instructions

I spent about 20 years re-landscaping homes. We used to re-landscape three homes a week, and we did all of this work on evenings and Saturdays because I worked a full time job.  I have no idea how many homes I re-landscaped over the years, but the number is well over 500. Every one of those re-landscaping jobs had overgrown landscaping that needed to be removed before we could even start the actual landscaping job.

That meant that dozens and dozens of tree stumps and large stumps from overgrown shrubbery had to be removed. Of course county wisdom says that you just back up Bubba’s pickup truck, wrap a chain around the stump and drive away as fast as you can.

I’ll admit, I’ve done that and does it work? Sort of. But it’s also a great way to really tear up a pick up truck, completely destroy the lawn, and possibly damage the house. Therefore it’s not such a good idea. Especially when you are doing work on somebody else’s house like I was doing.

So over the years we refined a technique for actually removing these stumps by hand. Tree stump removal by hand with the wrong tools is an impossible task. Tree stump removal with the right tools is doable. I won’t say its easy work because its not. But if you use the right tools and the right techniques you don’t have to strain your back and ruin your tools. It’s more of a methodical process of digging around the tree stump with a good nursery digging spade, and using a landscape bar, also known as a spud bar to cut the roots as you encounter them while digging.

The secret is to start out away from the stump.  If you start working too closely to the stump you will encounter large heavy roots that will be too difficult to deal with. 

So if you start out a little farther and just start digging a small trench around the stump with the spade, then going around in the trench you just dug with the spud bar to cut the roots that the spade won’t cut, then more spade work, then more landscape bar work, that tree stump will come out of the ground. Don’t pry and bend up your tools. Use the tools to cut the roots. Prying won’t get you anywhere and your tools will be ruined.

I’ve been teaching this technique on the Internet for a number of years now and people write to me all the time and tell me how well it worked for them.

Mike McGroarty is the owner of McGroarty Enterprises and the author of several books. You can visit his website at and read his blog at

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