How to Cut Tree Roots Correctly in 8 Steps

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With slow growth, tree roots lull the gardener into safety and turn into a nuisance unnoticed. As a tree stump with epic long root strands, it takes decades to decompose. Individual specimens grow cheekily over the property line, raise paving stones or cause expensive structural damage.

Sooner or later every homeowner is confronted with the question: How to cut tree roots and remove them? This guide explains how to do it right.

how to cut tree roots

At a Glance - How to Remove Tree Roots?

Felling trees is just the prologue to removing a tree from the garden. The remaining stump with its expansive long tree roots represents the real challenge. In fact, the natural decomposition process in the wood takes up to 10 years. During this time, tree roots continue to grow happily and cause serious damage.

It is not possible to create beds or sow the lawn on a deeply rooted subsoil. By removing all the tree roots, the way is clear for a new garden or patio design. If individual tree roots give you headaches, a courageous root cut solves the problem. The following table summarizes common options for expertly removing tree roots:

MethodProcedureAdvantageDisadvantage
Remove manuallyDigging outInexpensiveExhausting
Remove by machineMillingUncomplicatedExpensive
Accelerate decompositionCut open, sprinkle with compostBiologicalTedious
Let it dieIntroduce saltReliableTedious
ShortenCut off excessively long rootsTree remainsPost-treatment required

How to Cut Tree Roots - Step-by-Step Instructions

Tree roots with a stump up to 30 centimeters in diameter can be removed by hand. The necessary tools are part of the standard equipment in the garden. The following instructions explain step by step how you can skillfully remove tree roots with a good portion of strength:

Tool and Material Requirements

  • Sharp spade
  • Water hose or pressure washer
  • Ax or root saw
  • Winch, pulley system or jack
  • Working gloves

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Fell a tree to a stump that is 1.50 m high.
  2. Uncover all tree roots with a spade and a sharp jet of water.
  3. Cut through fine roots while digging.
  4. Use an ax or a root saw to cut thick tree roots.
  5. Move the tree stump back and forth with both hands.
  6. Use a winch, pulley system or jack to lift the stump out of the ground.
  7. Dig up remaining pieces of tree roots.
  8. Fill the bottom hole with a mixture of topsoil and compost

If you have a milling machine, you can alternatively shred the tree stump and the tree roots without digging on site. The practical device for removing tree roots is simply attached and instantly turns the wood into mulch. Because hobby gardeners invest in an expensive stump grinder, numerous machine rental companies offer the equipment for rent at a low daily rate.

removing tree root 1
Removing a tree root manually is an exhausting task

Alternative Method - Let Tree Roots Die Off

Do you hate exhausting excavation work? Alternatively, with a lot of patience and the right remedy, you can let tree roots die off. The following two methods work without chemical poison and have proven themselves excellently in the hobby garden:

Accelerate decomposition - compost tree roots

  1. Saw off the tree stump directly above the ground.
  2. Take a chainsaw and cut into the stump like a chessboard.
  3. At the tree roots, drill deep holes in the wood with a wood drill in several places.
  4. Fill the openings with fresh compost.
  5. Fungal spores and microorganisms contained in it get to work immediately and decompose the wood.
  6. The addition of a compost accelerator works wonders and supplies the busy microorganisms with new energy.

Destroy tree roots with salt

Tree roots have an aversion to certain types of salt. Epsom salt, also known as epsomite, and rock salt dissolve wood into its components in no time at all.

  1. For the salt to develop its destructive effect, drill holes in the tree roots at a distance of 1-2 centimeters that reach the ground.
  2. Fill the openings two-thirds full with the salt.
  3. Then seal the drill holes with liquid candle wax.
  4. Cover the tree roots and tree stump with a black tarpaulin, this will accelerate the decomposition process even more.

Shorten Problem Roots

cutting tree roots 1
Stubborn roots can be trimmed in the ground

Sometimes the damage is caused by isolated, excessively long root strands. Most of the time, tree roots push up the pavement of paths and surfaces, creating dangerous tripping hazards. In this case, the entire tree with stump and roots does not have to give way. It is enough to shorten the roots of the problem.

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The best tool is a special saw for tree roots, which you can buy in specialist shops with and without an electric drive. A proven rule of thumb shows the distance to the trunk at which you can cut a problem root. The following brief instructions explain how to cut tree roots correctly:

Apply rule of thumb

  1. Place a folding ruler at the tree root
  2. Rule of thumb: trunk diameter x 8 = minimum distance from the interface to the trunk
  3. Mark the interface

Warning!

A tree is doomed if it loses more than a quarter of its root mass in one fell swoop.

How to shorten the tree roots - step-by-step instructions

  1. Expose the tree root with a spade.
  2. Cut off the measured root strand with a root saw or pruning shears.
  3. Process and smooth the cut with a sharp knife (please disinfect the blade in advance).
  4. Treat damaged tree roots.
  5. Fill in the exposed root strand, ideally with ripe, sieved compost soil and water.

Disposing of Tree Roots - Tips and Tricks

Large tree roots take up a lot of storage space in the garden. If you don't want to wait for the root remains to dissolve by themselves, you can choose from these disposal options:

  • Commission a specialist company for the delivery and removal of a green waste container.
  • Chop tree roots and transport them to the composting plant with your own trailer.
  • Ask the local forester for permitted storage space for deadwood.

Frequently Asked Questions

tree root removal
With the help of a compost accelerator, tree roots rot faster

How to make tree roots rot faster?

Microorganisms and fungi help to ensure that tree roots rot faster. Open the wood in several places. Fill the openings with a mixture of half-rotted compost and compost accelerator. Every spring, freshen up the organic filling until the tree roots have dissolved into thin air.

Who removes tree roots? What costs are to be expected for the removal?

Specialists in horticulture and landscaping have the necessary know-how and adequate machinery to properly remove tree roots. On average, a rate of $250 to $350 can be expected, depending on the size and location of the tree root.

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How to Cut Tree Roots Correctly in 8 Steps

With slow growth, tree roots lull the gardener into safety and turn into a nuisance unnoticed. As a tree stump with epic long root strands, it takes decades to decompose. Individual specimens grow cheekily over the property line, raise paving stones or cause expensive structural damage. Sooner or later every homeowner is confronted with the […]

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