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It would be nice to never have to chop a tree down. They are not just beautiful, but crucial to our survival on this planet. Still, there are times when it is necessary. Unfortunately, trees are remarkably good at anchoring themselves to the ground, and while cutting them down is a relatively simple procedure, getting rid of the stump that is left over is not.
Digging the stump out of the ground is a possibility, but trees—especially large trees—build extensive root networks that make digging them out very impractical, if not impossible in smaller areas where the roots may have spread into other properties. And, as far as cutting goes, you can only get so close to the ground.
Stump grinders, as the name suggests, helps you get rid of those tree stumps by grinding them away. Those grindings are not just waste, however; they can be put to use as mulch.
As you might expect, a stump grinder is a substantial piece of kit, and expensive to buy. Fortunately, you don’t need to buy one to tackle the odd stump in your yard. In fact, unless you are going into business as a tree surgeon, it would be financially irresponsible of you to buy a stump grinder.
You can, however, rent them. And relatively cheaply at that.
That being said, just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. A stump grinder is a big, heavy, loud, and above all, dangerous piece of equipment. Given the cost of having a tree surgeon do the job for you, it is probably worth paying that little extra.
There is also the matter of doing the job properly. Trees grow back over time, even ones that have been ground down to or below ground level. A professional tree surgeon will use the stump grinder in conjunction with things like herbicide to keep your ground clear for longer.
To actually use the stump grinder, you should always make sure you are clear of the blade when it is running. There is a business end and an end for operating the device, and you do not want to get them mixed up! Gently drive the blade into the stump and make side-to-side motions, eating away at the stump with the blade. When you have got as much as you can get from your current position, tilt the stump grinder so that the blade is lifted and move forward to repeat the process.
You want to grind to around four inches below the surrounding ground level so that there will be plenty of ground covering the stump. The last thing you want, years after grinding your stump, is to destroy your lawnmower on the remains of the stump poking through the grass!
As we’ve mentioned, buying a stump grinder is wholly impractical for anyone who is not a working tree surgeon. You can, however, rent a stump grinder from several places in the UK. National companies like Homebase and National Tool Hire Shops are available for most people, but there may also be more local options depending on where you are in the UK. Prices of a stump grinder rental will vary, but most places will charge at least £100 a day, if not more. Again, you may find better prices locally. You can also often get a better rate if you are renting for a longer period, like a week.
DIY is not your only option, of course; you can also hire a qualified expert to take care of your stump. They will have an array of tools to make short work of it. As a rough guide, you can expect to pay around £60 per hour for the services of a professional tree surgeon.
The by-product of stump grinding can be used as wood chip mulch, which has many benefits in the garden. And, if you absolutely have to cut a tree down, it is better that it not go completely to waste.
Here are some benefits of wood chip mulch as a ground covering in your garden and other areas;
Unlike synthetic mulches, wood chip mulches break down naturally over time, giving their nutrients back to the surrounding soil.
Improved Soil Temperature
A generous layer of wood chip mulch over soil will act as an insulator. This insulation keeps the soil temperature more even, and softens the shock of cold weather to your plants, meaning they will stay healthier through the cold months.
It’s not just heated in winter that wood chip mulch helps with; it also helps to keep moisture in the soil through the summer. Plants need water, but those sunny days tend to dry the soil out. With a layer of wood chip mulch, the soil is protected from that evaporation.
Some types of wood—particularly cedar, pine, and cypress—have the added bonus of repelling things like fleas, ticks, and gnats.
Covering your soil with a few inches of wood chip mulch blocks the sunlight to the soil, making it less likely that weeds will be able to get purchase in that part of your garden.
Once you have your stump grounds, and you have made the wise decision to turn them into wood chip mulch, what do you do next?
#1 Pile them up
The first step, of course, is to rake them all into a nice pile and scoop them into a container. You’re probably going to want to move this container, so we recommend a wheelbarrow.
#2 Sift the stump grounds
Next, you will need to sift through the stump grounds to get rid of anything that shouldn’t be there. Leaves and evergreen needles are fine, but grass and stone should be removed.
That’s it! You have your stump ground mulch.
With regard to using that mulch, you may want to consider adding a layer of nitrogen-rich compost to your soil before you put down your mulch, especially if your soil is not the best, to begin with. It’s worth noting that the mulch uses nitrogen in its decaying process, so you might find it beneficial to mix some of that nitrogen-rich compost in with the mulch itself so that it doesn’t deprive your soil.
When you are ready to put your mulch down, don’t be stingy. Aim for at least three inches of depth, if not more. Anything over six inches is probably overkill, however.
Remember, you will need to replenish the mulch over time as it decays. We know you almost certainly won’t have an unlimited supply of tree stumps to grind into mulch, but don’t worry; there are plenty of places where you can buy natural wood mulch.
Landscaping after removing a tree stump should be a simple affair, providing you have ground away a sufficient amount of the stump. If you have only taken it down to just below the surface, you may have problems going forward. Similarly, if your landscaping involves digging holes (making a pond, for example) you will find stump grinding to have been wholly inadequate.
Your first step will be to clear the aftermath of the grinding away. If you have followed the above guide for turning your former tree stump into wood mulch, you will already have done this part.
Next, you want to fill the hole in. If you have done this right, you should have at least three or four inches of hole to fill in, which will give you a nice buffer between the surface and the stump. Consider filling in the bottom two-thirds of the hole with soil and packing it down firmly. You don’t want to pack it so tightly that it is concrete-hard, but soil shifts and settles over time, and this should help prevent there being a noticeable depression in your lawn.
The next step will depend on what you plan to do. If you are just covering the area with grass, finish filling the hole with nutrient-rich compost and soil and seed it with grass. If you are paving or concreting over, just throw some gravel in there and treat the area the same way you are treating the surrounding area.
Doing things yourself is a satisfying experience, and one that many of us enjoy when we can do it. That being said, removing a tree stump is not a simple process, and it involves the use of some heavy and potentially dangerous machinery.
While you can rent a stump grinder, we would thoroughly recommend hiring an expert to come in and do the job for you. It is safer, they will likely do a better job, and it is often cheaper! A professional tree surgeon will almost certainly have their own stump grinder, and will not have to pass the high rental costs onto you when they come in to grind your stump away.