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Tree Stump Removal with Saltpeter Newsletter


Tree Stump Removal With Saltpeter

Common question that comes my way is how to get rid of stumps in an economical way. Well, hiring an arborist to use a stump grinder is still the fastest and best choice. It only takes a few minutes and the stump is gone. There is however another method that homeowners can do themselves.

Saltpeter, known chemically as potassium nitrate, accelerates wood decomposition, making the wood soft enough to break apart and remove. Referred to by some as "burning" the stump.

It’s ideal to use a ½” drill for holes at least 4 inches deep into the stump. Space the holes 4 to 6 inches apart. Drill holes on top and the sides of the stump at a downward angle.

Fill the drilled holes with saltpeter. In the past I have recommended using fertilizer or molasses but they don’t work quite as fast or as well.

Pour hot water over the filled holes to dissolve the saltpeter so it will be absorbed throughout the stump. Add the water slowly and refill the holes with saltpeter as necessary. Some people like to put burning charcoal briquettes on after the saltpeter has been added. That does speed up the process of stump decomposition but can be dangerous and really isn’t necessary.

Monitor the decomposition of the stump over the next few weeks. Break the stump apart for removal as it decomposes.

The bad news is that this stuff is hard to find. Maybe part of it is that potassium nitrate is one of the ingredients in gunpowder. I spent time the last few days in Dallas trying to find some for a photo for this newsletter - zero luck. Found some Stump Out by Bonide in Home Depot but it is not potassium nitrate. 

A Spectracide product called Stump Remover is apparently in some of the big stores and it is potassium nitrate. Some web sites such as sell potassium nitrate and the prices look reasonable.

The retail store that came to my rescue is Shades of Green in San Antonio. They have the High Yield product Stump Remover in stock. Its label says that it “contains potassium nitrate.” I'll cover this information on my show tomorrow morning - find a radio station here or the live stream here

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Naturally yours,

Howard Garrett
The Dirt Doctor


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