Shrub removal help.

rosieq(6 Southeast PA)February 4, 2008

I am removing the old, overgrown and sometimes dead shrubs along the front of my house by pruning them down to nubs. I prune a bit every week-end. How do I get the roots out so I can plant new shrubs this spring? Please tell me I can do it myself. I have a rotozip that I used in the past to remove roots. It was hard to do. I have a lot of shrubs to remove so it would be a lot of work. Is there a chemical I can use to get rid of the roots? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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Don't prune them down to nubs. Leave a big strong stalk or two for leverage. Cut around the plant with a straight edge spade overlaping cuts so that you are slicing through all of the root. Then use a regular shovel to dig a trench around the plant outside of that cut line. Try rocking the root using the stalk (stem, trunk, or whatever you want to call it). Find the remaining roots that are holding it in and cut those. In some cases you'll need a saw. Keep undermining the root ball and cutting roots until you can push over the stump using the trunk. Eventually it will be free and you can remove it.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2008 at 8:56PM
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If it's going to be a tough shrub to remove, I tie a rope around the shrub and hook the rope to the hitch on the back of my car. Then I drive slowly and carefully until the shrub comes out of the ground root and all. The area in front of the shrub would have to be flat and dry and you have to be really careful and slow when you drive forward. It's best to have someone watching nearby in case there's a problem. But it really does the trick with not too much effort and all the roots come out too.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2008 at 11:36PM
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jerzeegirl's suggestion is good, but I have to add a caveat... know what kind of shrub you have and what its root system is like before you hook up your vehicle! Our old neighbors ruined their smaller-size pickup truck by attempting to pull a 30-year-old juniper out with a chain attached to their hitch. The juniper won that tug-of-war.

Ever since witnessing that, I've used laag's method of digging by hand and rocking to dislodge the stump. Sometimes it takes the whole darned day, but it won't wreck my suspension! :)

    Bookmark   February 5, 2008 at 5:45PM
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tibs(5/6 OH)

I use laag's method and then being a puney type female with no upper body strength, after much grunting and sweating and swearing and getting covered with dirt, I call in "He-man Master of the Universe" (which is either dh or ds, that was his favorite cartoon as a 4 year old) to give the last yank.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2008 at 6:19PM
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rosieq(6 Southeast PA)

Thank you for your great suggestions.
I may have to dig them out by hand as laag suggested. Some of the shrubs are very old and their root systems cover about a 3 foot wide area. So I will be working at it for a while.
I don't have a truck and I am afraid my car won't pull them out so I don't think that will work for me.
A last option may be to hire someone to do it. Ouch! That will cost a good bit I am afraid.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2008 at 8:58PM
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But then, no chemicals in the ground, so you can add soil and new plants right away! I would add, it will be easier to dig if the soil if moist, but not soaking wet. If rainfall (or snow melt)is scant, water deeply a day or two beforehand.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 1:37PM
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You may not be able to get the entire root system out but that is OK. They will begin to breakdown and deteriorate and add to the soil over time. You do want to get out the major roots, though. Investing in a very inexpensive pruning saw will ease the process considerably. Dig out as much as you can of a reasonably sized rootball and cut off the rest. Sometimes hosing off the rootball with a strong spray of water will make it easier to haul off but wait until you have it out of the ground or you'll just have a giant mud bowl to deal with :-))

    Bookmark   February 7, 2008 at 10:16AM
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davidandkasie(Z8 MS)

the key to it is to cut as many roots as possible before you attempt to pull it up, whether pulling by hand or by vehicle. a good sharp shovel/spade and maybe a hatchet will help you greatly. the only thing about an axe/hatchet is you will dull the blade quickly when hitting the dirt.

i watched my neighbor spend 4 hours one day getting a shrub out with a pickaxe and a shovel. the next day i asked him why he did not hook his truck to it and he just stared at me. hooked the truck to the next shrub and had it out in under a minute.

if you do hook your car to it, you MUST hook to the frame of the car. hook to the wrong place and you will hurt the vehicle.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2008 at 1:21PM
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I can concur with othe posters - digging it out is safer. If it has a big root system, just start cutting down with your shovel further out.

Even as a woman - you can do this. Cut down a lot with the shovel - even go at an angle to get the "down" roots. Then use your body weight against the knub to get it moving. As you get it moving, you may see that it is still connected somehow. Just cut down with your shovel again.

You CAN do it!!! (From another woman with regular strength)

    Bookmark   February 21, 2008 at 5:00PM
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I would go the truck route if possible, but if not, put your money into a quality spade. It's my favorite tool for moving shrubs and the first 'shovel' I grab for most work. Mine has the fiberglass handle and you'd be surprised the leverage you can put on it!

A Makita cordless recip saw is my second favorite tool for cutting those large stubborn roots!

Here is a link that might be useful: spade

    Bookmark   February 23, 2008 at 8:30PM
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It also depends on the shrub, Hollys have roots that go straight down like trees and almost do require chains, boxwoods, azaleas, rododendrens, hydrandreas etcs have shallow roots and you can dig around them.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2008 at 6:57PM
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I saw a great suggestion on the Texas forums for removing shrubs:

advertise "Free shrubs. You dig." on Craigslist or Freecycle.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2008 at 7:59PM
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