How to Kill Tree Roots
Trees add great value to a property in many ways. Trees increase a home’s curb appeal by adding a beautiful view from the road. They also create a home for wildlife, bringing birds, squirrels, and chipmunks to the yard to forage and play. Trees provide shade, which helps to create a cool, serene spot for you and your home on a hot summer day.
Trees provide many benefits to a property, but they can also turn into a hazard in the yard. When a tree gets damaged or sick, removing it can become vital to the survival of the neighboring trees and to the safety of the home. A damaged tree can have weakened limbs that can fall and cause property damage or physical injury to those walking by. Some trees may have been planted in a poorly chosen location and now threaten power lines above. Or maybe the tree roots are causing cracks in the sewer pipes below or in a building foundation or sidewalks.
Whatever the reason for needing to remove a tree, tree removal doesn’t stop at cutting down the tree trunk. Tree roots can continue growing even after cutting down the above-ground portion of the tree. It’s important to make sure to fully kill or remove the tree roots after removing the tree trunk. If left, the roots may cause a tripping hazard or damage sidewalks, driveways, building foundations, or anything in their path as they spread both underground and above ground. So if you’re wondering how to kill tree roots, read on for a few of the best ways to do so.
Dig Out the Tree Roots
Removing tree roots can be an arduous task, especially for larger tree varieties. Tree roots can grow up to 20 feet deep, and they can spread out even farther in the right soil conditions. Physically digging out the tree roots is best used for smaller trees. If you have larger trees and need a professional to remove the tree roots, contact the arborists at Mr. Tree.
- Gather your tools. To dig out the roots of smaller trees, you will need a shovel, garden loppers, and a hoe. A root saw can be useful for cutting the larger roots.
- Call before you dig. When digging, you always want to be sure to call your local utility companies first to ensure you aren’t digging near underground power, gas, or water lines.
- Start digging and removing loose roots. Once you get the all-clear, you’ll start by removing the soil over the tree roots to expose the roots that need to be removed. Remove any loose roots first by pulling them out of the soil. Then dig to remove any dirt covering the rest of the roots so they are exposed.
- Cut the deeper roots. Next, use your garden loppers to cut out the remaining roots, but try to cut away from the root ball so the root ball remains intact. If the roots are too thick to be cut by loppers, that’s when you want to use your root saw to cut through them.
- Dig out the cut roots. Next, use your hoe to dig out the cut roots and remove them from the ground. You can try rocking the tree stump back and forth to loosen more roots.
- Continue to expose, cut, and remove as many roots as you can.
- Remove the root ball. Once all the roots are removed, you’ll be left with the stump and root ball. Rock the stump back and forth to loosen the root ball and remove it from the ground.
Use a Stump Grinder
You may be wondering how to kill tree roots of larger trees, when cutting through their tree roots with loppers or a root saw isn’t a possibility. If you want to remove the tree roots of larger trees without the use of chemicals, you can use a stump grinder to assist with the stump removal first, then dig out the tree roots.
- Gather your tools. To grind a larger tree stump, you’ll need a shovel, a chainsaw, safety goggles, a long-sleeved shirt, and pants to keep you safe from flying debris. You’ll also need to rent a stump grinder. You can rent these for a few hundred dollars at your local home improvement store.
- Remove the trunk. First, you’ll use the chainsaw to cut the trunk as close to the ground as possible.
Clear the area. Remove any rocks and loose debris that can fly up and hit you or damage the stump grinder while grinding.
- Grind the stump. Drive the stump grinder over the tree stump and grind the stump down another two to four inches.
- Dig out the remaining roots. Now you’ll use the shovel to dig up the remaining tree roots from the ground.
- Fill in the empty space. Once the stump is ground down and the roots have been removed, cover the area with the wood chips created during grinding. If the surrounding area is grassy, you can cover the ground-down stump with topsoil and grass seed. Check on the area often until it returns to the natural look of the surrounding area.
Use Chemical Herbicide to Kill Tree Roots
- Gather your tools. If you choose to use herbicide to kill the tree roots remaining, you’ll need a saw, a hose or watering can, a paintbrush or garden sprayer for applying the herbicide, and glyphosate herbicide with 41 percent or higher active ingredient concentration.
- Expose fresh wood. Use the saw and make a cut across the stump, exposing fresh wood.
- Wet the outer rings. Wet the tree’s outer layer, just behind the bark, with water. This outer ring is still active and will distribute the herbicide to the roots below.
- Prepare the herbicide and apply. Mix the herbicide with water in a 50/50 ratio and either paint or spray on the herbicide mixture on the outer ring of the tree stump.
- Wait. Once the treatment is applied, it will take a couple of weeks for the tree roots to fully die off.
Natural Treatment to Kill Tree Roots
Killing tree roots using rock salt is a more natural solution than using herbicide.
- Gather your tools. You’ll need a drill, rock salt or Epsom salt, and water for this process.
- Drill holes for the salt. Drill several holes about three to four inches deep in each tree root and the tree stump.
- Fill the holes with salt and water. Fill each hole with rock salt and cover with enough water to fill the hole but not overflow.
- Repeat. This will need to be repeated several times a month until the roots are dead.
If you would like to hire a professional tree service to remove your tree roots, contact Mr. Tree.