Tree careTree Stump Grinding

You’ve got a stump on your property. Maybe the tree was too close to your driveway; maybe it was diseased and had become a safety hazard. For whatever reason, your tree is now gone and all you’re left with is this stump and its roots. Like many folks, you want to be rid of this eyesore. So, what now? You might be thinking you want this stump “removed” – and we understand that. But it’s important to know that “removing” the stump means something very different than “grinding” the stump. In reality, stump grinding is likely your best option.

To help you embark on the process of vanquishing your stump, we’ve dedicated this post to answering questions like “what’s the difference between stump removal and stump grinding?” as well as any other questions that might be leaving you, well, stumped. (*Sigh*, we had to say it).

FAQ #1: So, what is the difference between stump grinding and stump removal? 

Like we said, most folks who have a yard they care about aren’t going to want to pursue stump removal. That’s because stump removal entails not only extracting the stump but also all of the roots attached to it. As a result, you’re going to need a Bobcat or some other heavy-duty piece of equipment. Plus, the roots of your tree may have spread out across half the yard. So, you might end up churning through much of the soil on your property. Typically, property owners only pursue full-on stump removal if they are clearing a lot for building, in which case, the aesthetics don’t matter much. 

Stump grinding, on the other hand, is a much more manageable route for homeowners to take, because it doesn’t involve removing every tree root. Using a stump grinder like the one pictured below, we’ll grind the stump and essentially shave the remaining tree trunk until it’s gone. By definition, a stump is what’s left of the tree trunk, and that remaining tree trunk extends into the ground. So, having your stump ground down will leave your yard with a hole, but one that is far less massive than if you went the stump removal route. 

 

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FAQ #2: How far down does stump grinding go?

Some machines can grind stumps as low as 18 inches into the ground. That said, the industry standard is to grind the stump until there isn’t a trunk anymore. In fact, that’s how we do it at Jackson Tree Service. Maybe you’re wondering, well, how deep does a tree stump go? The answer is, it depends. Some trees have shallower trunks than others. The general rule of thumb is that a white oak trunk goes deeper than a sycamore’s, and a sycamore trunk goes deeper than a cottonwood. Beyond that, your local arborist can estimate the depth of the trunk when they come out to grind it.

FAQ #3: What happens to roots left behind after stump grinding? Can they resprout?

We get this question a lot. The answer is no, tree roots cannot re-sprout a tree after the stump has been ground down. The roots will simply deteriorate over time. Some folks hear this and then fear there might be a gaping sinkhole in their yard in five years – but this isn’t something you have to worry about either. The roots decompose into the soil such that there won’t ever be a vacuum, so to speak. Plus, this process is very gradual, so on the off-chance that there is some slight caving-in of the topsoil, it wouldn’t be for at least a few dozen years. And it’s precisely the persistence of the roots that brings us to our next question….

FAQ #4: Can I replant where my old tree was? 

The short answer is yes – but we recommend you don’t. The tendency of homeowners is sometimes to plant a new tree in the hole where the old one was. We find this to be the case if the homeowners were particularly reluctant to remove the tree in the first place – say, if it was damaged or diseased – and they were sorry to see it go. However, the roots that remain after stump grinding will make it difficult for a new tree to grow. Not only do the old roots take up the space where new roots would need to take hold, but their decomposition will also change the acidity of the soil. Thus, the new tree may have a hard time growing.

It will be particularly hard for a new tree to grow if the previous tree was a walnut. These types of trees secrete a toxin (specifically, juglone toxin) into the soil around their base, which prevents other plants from taking root. (Ever wondered why grass doesn’t grow right up to the base of a walnut tree? That’s largely because of the toxin these trees secrete).

Of course, if you just can’t live without some foliage in that exact place in your yard, there are remedies. First, you’re going to want to pursue the stump removal method rather than the stump grinding method, to get rid of the roots. Second, you’ll want to restore the acidity of the soil. To do that, you’ll need to get your soil tested. You can get that done by a local research institution or university – for example, the University of Missouri offers soil testing for just $25! They will then tell you exactly how to treat your soil to prepare for the new tree.

But this can be expensive and time-consuming. That’s why we typically recommend finding another place in your yard for the new tree.

FAQ #5: What do I do with the sawdust left behind after stump grinding? 

This is another question we get a lot. After stump grinding, you should use the sawdust to fill the hole left behind from the tree stump. But chances are you’ll have more sawdust left over after that. At Jackson Tree Service, we haul off your extra sawdust and take it to a compost center, where it eventually gets turned into mulch. If you don’t opt to have your tree service haul off the sawdust, be aware: all those fresh wood shavings might attract termites. So, it’s best to get rid of it ASAP by taking it to a compost center or dump.

Conclusions

So, what’s the takeaway here? Most important is the difference between stump grinding and stump removal. Remember, the latter is far more time and work intensive, which is why we recommend our residential customers stick to stump grinding. Beyond that, if you have any questions about stump grinding, please reach us in the comments below! Or, ask your local tree service when you request a quote on stump removal.