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Removing stump from yard is difficult, not impossible

Jeff Lowenfels
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News

The upside to the Big Winds is that a lot of weakened limbs and trees are no longer a danger. The downside is that a lot of people have had damage to property and, to add insult to injury, now have stumps to contend with. While some may want to incorporate these stumps into their landscape plan and others are fine with just letting them decay over the years, many do not want a stump sitting in the middle of the lawn, especially a cottonwood stump that will clone more of these weed trees.

There are lots of ways to get rid of trunks. Without question, the easiest and first resort if you can afford it, is to rent or hire a tree stump grinder. These are monster saws that are used to cut up the trunk and some of the extending root bases in situ. It takes about 15 minutes and a bit of work. It's like rototilling a three foot area of wood. Making sure that the trunk is cut as low to the ground as possible first will speed up the process, helpful when you paying an hourly rate.

The old fashioned way to get rid of tree trunks is to get them to decay faster than they naturally will, which they will if you leave them alone. This is accomplished by using a 1/2 to 1 inch drill bit to place lots of holes in the trunk. First drill holes on the top of the trunk and then drill holes along the sides of the trunk so that they merge or intersect with the top holes. Then, add an organic fertilizer that is high in nitrogen to them. Blood meal works fine.

In some instances, especially if you trunk is from a dead tree and not a green one, you may be able to drill holes as above and then burn the trunk. The holes will provide air for the fire. Be careful, obviously and make sure you have water immediately at hand. The last thing you need is to have your insurance company learn that you burned down your house trying to get rid of a tree trunk. Do not use gasoline. Camping fuel oil works just fine and is much less dangerous.

Some folks use other things in these drilled holes and have had success. Frequent applications of aerated compost tea, for example. Or you can apply commercially available compost starter or septic tank microbes to speed up the decay. I've even been told manures and compost can be effective.

While these are things to do now, they will all work best during the summer. There is decay during the winter, however, so don't wait. Whatever you do, know that any chemicals poured on the stump will get into your soil and our water table. Keep it organic, folks.

Next, you can dig up some trunks by hand. Well, not by hand, but by spade. Ah, finally a use for that pick ax. Our trees have shallow roots due to the cold soil down deeper, so this is a viable option for smaller trunks.

If you an get under the trunk or if you can wrap a chain around it, you might be able to use your car or truck to pull the trunk. Obviously, a backhoe or other construction equipment will clearly do the job.

Finally, some readers might like to consider recreating the Texas Chain Saw Massacre. This entails whacking the trunk with a chain saw to either break it apart of increase the surface area to which you can apply things to increase decay.

Of course, it is always a good idea to replace trees lost as soon as possible. Even while dealing with trunks, it is a good idea to scout the nurseries for planting stock. As long as you can work the ground, you can replant.

Garden calendar

ALASKA PIONEER FRUIT GROWERS MINI-CONFERENCE: REGISTRATION AT 2 P.M. ON SEPT. 21 AT UAA/APU CONSORTIUM LIBRARY. BOB BORS, WHO DEVELOPS FRUITS FOR COLD CLIMATES, WILL SPEAK; EVENTS CONCLUDE WITH DINNER. THE PRESENTATION WILL BE REPEATED AT 2 P.M. SATURDAY AT THE MAT-SU CAMPUS. FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT DMELLIOTT@MTAONLINE.NET.

ALASKA ORCHID SOCIETY: 7 P.M. TUESDAY AT THE BP ENERGY CENTER. TOM NASSER OF CAROLINA ORCHIDS WILL SPEAK. LEAVES: SOIL FOOD WEBBIES DON'T RAKE. WE RUN OVER LEAVES WITH MOWERS, MULCH THEM UP AND LEAVE THEM TO DECAY, WHICH THEY WILL, OVER THE WINTER. THIS FEEDS THE LAWN AND MAKES FALL CHORES REALLY EASY. THE TRICK IS NOT TO WAIT UNTIL THEY ARE ALL DOWN.

COMPOST AND WOOD CHIPS: THESE MAKE GREAT "BROWN" MATERIAL FOR COMPOST PILES. SAVE THEM. AND USE THEM FOR MULCH AROUND YOUR PROPERTY. TO FIGURE OUT HOW MUCH AND EVEN WHAT "GREEN" TO ADD, USE A COMPOST CALCULATOR.

SPRING FLOWERING BULBS: PLANT OUTDOORS AND START FORCING SOME. THE LATER REQUIRES 40 TO 50 DEGREE CHILLING.

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Jeff Lowenfels is America's longest running garden columnist, co-author of "Teaming With Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide To The Soil Food Web" and host of "The Garden Party" from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday on KBYR AM 700 and www.kbyr.com. It is the best time to call in with your questions; 274-5297 or 1-866-610-5297.


By JEFF LOWENFELS