Why Epsom Salt?

  • After a tree has been felled, the root network will continue to feed the stump. A living stump will not rot and may grow new shoots. Epsom salt (or magnesium sulfate) is hygroscopic, which means the crystals absorb water. In sufficient quantity, Epsom salt pulls moisture from the wood, which then kills the tree.

    There are many substances that could be applied to a tree stump to kill it, but Epsom salt has advantages over other stump removal chemicals. Rock salt or caustic lye would dry out the wood, but high sodium levels could make it difficult to replant after the stump has been removed. Commercial stump removal preparations contain potassium nitrate, which aids decomposition but does little to kill a living stump. Epsom salt kills the stump while improving the surrounding soil by adding magnesium and sulfur; plants require both for chlorophyll production.

    Application

  • Drill holes in the top of the stump with a one inch spade bit. The number of holes you will drill is dependent upon how large the stump top is–start your holes three inches from the perimeter of the stump and keep them three to four inches apart until you run out of room. Bore the holes as deeply as you can–at least eight inches into the base of the stump. Pour 100 percent Epsom salt into the holes and add enough water to moisten the salt. This moisture will carry the salts into the cells of the tree, drying them out. Then use a mattock or grub hoe to uncover as much as the root structure as you can. Pour a thick layer of Epsom salt on all exposed roots to prevent to roots from carrying moisture and nutrients to the base of the tree. Place a plastic bag over the tree stump to keep the moisture in.

    Larger stumps may take up to 6 months to die, so plan to reapply the Epsom salt every month or so. Brittle, dark wood is dead; while soft, light wood will require another application of Epsom salt. A dead stump will decompose naturally, though you can speed the process by adding a high nitrogen fertilizer to the bore holes and around the base of the stump.

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5 Responses to Rot Out A tree Stump with Epsom Salts
  1. Last monday I had a mapletree cut down I just did the epsom-salt treatment to give it a try will let u know in the next 3 months on how it did.

  2. I will try this too. I really appreciate the comments about soil treatment. Love that I am adding to the necessary growth of the soil rather than placing harmful chemicals in the environment. I live in Costa Rica. I am wondering if the natural heat and moisture will add to the speed of destroying the stump? Also, I will be leaving in March to return in November. I will have my gardener check under the bag :) What to do if the process is not finished… a second application? Leave the bag off and let nature finish the job? It will be rainy season when I am away so I am wondering how it will be effected. If I do the treatment this week we will still be in dry season for at least 2 months. Any feedback? Thank you :)

    • I cannot say how long it would take for a tree stump to rot out in Costa Rica, I would think a much shorter time than here in Canada where we have winter for 6 months and extremely cold temperatures. As with any natural product, it does take longer to work than chemicals. Please don’t give up. Several applications may be needed. My brother is trying this for me but it is going to take longer due to our weather. Thank you for contacting us.


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