planting grass over ground up stump

beckyinrichmondJanuary 25, 2013

We cut down a 70 year old silver maple in November. Huge limbs had been splitting and we decided the tree was dangerous. The tree removal crew left a big pile of ground up wood chips from the stump for me--I wanted those for mulch. I've been gradually reducing the pile of chips and putting the chips in borders for mulch. How much should I leave in the mound? I know the roots and chips underneath will be decaying over the coming years and the ground will settle. How much settling should I expect for a big tree like this? Will it be okay to plant grass over the area this spring or should I wait until September? The whole yard needs renovation. Nothing but moss and violets grew under the tree. We've planted a sugar maple but it's going to be a while before we have shade again.

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apundt-tx(8 SW Austin)

That stump will be robbing your grass of nitrogen until it decays really good but you can just hand toss some when you see the shade of green get pale. I am more worried about the moss and violets in your yard. That is a sign of shade. Is your yard still pretty shady or was the maple what was providing the shade for the moss to grow.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2013 at 1:01PM
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The maple was a huge tree and shaded the whole yard. There are crepe myrtles along one side of the yard but the yard is mostly sunny now with the maple gone. Maybe I should try to get most of the chips out and fill in the hole with topsoil?

    Bookmark   January 26, 2013 at 3:49PM
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apundt-tx(8 SW Austin)


    Bookmark   January 26, 2013 at 6:13PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

The entire volume of the tree roots will completely disappear over time. Huge tree = huge root mass = huge hole...eventually. Patience will be your best asset as you fill and fill and fill over the years.

The roots do not disappear automatically. They are decomposed by a wood fungus like the fungus causing dry rot. Once it starts it just goes, but getting it started can take awhile. If you can find a rotting tree in the local woods, break off a piece of the soft wood and seed your stump with it. I would use a misting nozzle to keep it saturated for a few weeks. Misting nozzles use hardly any water and work great for this application.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 1:35AM
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Thanks for the advice. I have a rotten stump from another tree that was cut down and I can pull some parts from it. The maple tree's stump was ground up and it's now a mound, maybe 20-30 ft in diameter, of mud and chips. Frozen mud on the top. If I dig down to under ground level there is standing water. Nevertheless I'm still trying to dig out and move chips on nice days. I may not get it all cleared out by grass planting time in the spring, so I may wait until fall for grass renovation. Would it be advisable to plant anything or put straw or something down over this area after I fill up the hole with topsoil if we won't do grass until fall? I have some used landscape fabric I could pin over it. Would that help or hurt?

    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 5:48PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

This hole you refer there any of the original roots (unground) still down there? Certainly there are little roots but did they dig out that 20-30 feet to get all the big roots? That's pretty impressive if they did that.

If there are remaining roots, I would be inclined to leave it open to the air to allow the wood rotting fungus to do it's thing. It MUST have air to work. While wood might rot when buried, it will rot 100x faster when exposed to the air. I buried a stump under compost for 2 years and at the end of that it was as solid a stump as you could find. When I unburied it and kept it moist, it disappeared in 18 months. If you bury it, all the nitrogen it can find in the soil will go to the fungus. That will give you a 20-30 foot yellow spot for the next 10 years while that wood under the soil decomposes.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 8:23PM
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andy10917(NY 6a)

I rarely disagree with David, but this is one time that I do. There is a "both sides of the coin" thing at play here. If there is a large amount of root material near the surface that is decomposing rapidly, then there can be a drain on the Nitrogen in the soil. However, if the decomposition is over ten years (and with a Maple it could be) the draw on Nitrogen will be much slower, and not above the soil biology's capability. It can't be both ways at the same time -- intense and protracted. I had a 60' Norway Maple removed 15 years ago and never removed the roots more than 3'-4' from the center. I never experienced more than slight Nitrogen drain and the "depression" from the decomposition was limited to 5-10 bags of topsoil per year for seven or eight years. It was a non-event.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 10:54PM
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I think they ground up all the big roots right at the trunk. There are unground roots at ground level further out and no doubt lots of other unground roots all over the yard. The pile of chips left was about 3-4 ft high when the stump was ground. It's down to about one foot high now and the chips are all mixed with dirt now (the higher chips were mostly clean chips and much easier to move). The chips go below ground level at least 4 inches--that's as much as I have been able to dig down to. The chips down there are small chips, like 1-2 inches long, 1/4 - 1/2 inch diameter. But numerous still.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 8:49AM
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I had a large silver maple removed from the yard of a prior home. The stump remover acts like a rototiller and mixes the chips into the soil as deep as the grinder disturbed the soil. In my case well over 2'+ down. The further down the less the percentage of chips. I excavated down until the chip percentage was less than half of the amount of soil mixed in (a little over a 1 1/2 foot down) and filled with 2 1/2 yards of top soil--a lot of work. I had no issues with growing grass or yellowing. The second year there was a lot of fungus growth (the type you see growing on the sides of decaying trees) and it lasted for 2-3 years throughout the yard/root area (btw, in my case I had no surface roots showing but that didn't stop the fungus from growing above surface). Over the ten year period the stump area dropped about 3 inches.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 11:35AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

I rarely find that Andy disagrees with me but when he does, I always learn something '-)

That is very interesting what grass had to say, too.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 11:27PM
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Thanks for all the advice. On the warm days this week I was able to get a lot of chips out and I think I can manage to get the area ready for planting grass by early March. Once I get to about 8 inches below grade it's mostly dirt. My plan is to get out chips where there are more chips than dirt and to leave the areas where there is more dirt than chips, using that to help fill the pit (the remaining mounds on the south side of the stump have more dirt than chips). Before I fill the pit I'll throw in the rotten stump pieces from another tree. I'll fill the pit with a topsoil/compost mixture that I'm getting for some new raised beds and make a slight mound (maybe 3 inches) to compensate for settling. I've sent off a soil test. I'll add whatever lime is needed and put down starter fertilyzer and seed and keep it moist. Hopefully the grass will make through the summer but I guess if it dies I can try again in September. My other project before planting is to get out liriope that spread into the lawn area. I got out ivy last fall. I'm digging it up--the ground is soft (when it's not frozen on top) and I wouldn't think Roundup would be very effective in February when everything is dormant.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 11:25AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

All the compost you put into the hole will disappear. So if you put 3 inches of compost in, you will have a 3 inch depression.

If you don't have much wood underground, then you don't need to seed it with the rotten pieces. And besides, if you bury the rotten pieces, you are cutting off the oxygen to them and they will not work their magic even if you had a lot of wood to work on. I guess it would not hurt anything to put them in in small amounts.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 8:23PM
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Hmm. Maybe I'll see if I can get the soil and compost unmixed in the same delivery and use just soil. VA Tech emailed my soil tests today. The back, where this tree was, needs 130 lb. per 1000 square feet, applied on several applications (no more than 50 lb. each time). The back yard lawn area is a little over 4000 sq ft. The front lawn needs no lime (I renovated the front several years ago). They recommend a fertilizer with a 1-2-1 ratio for the back yard, a regular turf type for the front. With so much lime needed, would it be better for me to wait until fall for planting, while I work on getting the soil in better shape this spring and summer? Or would it be better to get some grass coverage now and keep adding lime in small doses to the new grass? I'm in Richmond VA and there is often brutal heat in July and August.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 5:56PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Roots in the soil, even weed roots, is the best thing you can do for soil. You might plant Dutch white clover for now and plan to kill everything in the fall. Clover is considered a cover crop that enhances the soil quality while it is growing.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 1:10AM
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Clover! That's a great idea. In reading about clover it looks like I shouldn't fertilize when I plant it. So game plan now is get chips out where chips predominate, spread remaining chips/dirt into the pit (where there is more dirt than chips), add topsoil or topsoil/compost mix so there is a mound over the stump area (might be easier to use the mix and just more of it than try to bring in two piles of materials), spread lime (as much as can be done in one dose), wait a couple of weeks, rake ground and plant clover, water as it germinates, spread more lime in small doses every month until I've put down the recommended amount, plan to renovate in the fall. My P reading was 17 lb/ac, K was 147 lb/ac, Ca was 949 lb/ac, Mg was 146 lb/ac. If there is a fertilizer that has potassium without nitrogen, would it be good to use that? is there such a thing? Main reason to avoid nitrogen at planting is to not stimulate grass/weeds that would outcompete the new clover in getting established.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 11:33AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Sounds good.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 12:46AM
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yes it really sounds good.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 4:54AM
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I changed my mind and am going to plant grass seed instead of clover this spring. I will probably have to do it again in the fall. I thought of bees in the clover and grandkids running around. Grass, even if it doesn't survive the summer heat, is better. The chips are out, the pit filled in with topsoil/compost delivered last week, lime (I used the maximum rate of Cal Turf Pro) has been spread. I am now digging out patches where liriope had spread into the lawn. I have raked and will rake some more just before planting seed. VA Tech recommends Feb-March as the time for spring planting here so I'm aiming for the end of Feb. That's just a couple of weeks after the lime but I want to get the grass going as soon as it can start growing.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 7:57AM
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Reading that thread straight through was an experience. I want to add a couple of key points to help with long term success and to avoid potential problems.
1) Mix sand into the top layer before you plant, you will need the soil texture to be a little more coarse to allow more air into the soil (I'll get to why).
2) Lime is Calcium Carbonate (like a cheap antacid tablet) so when you do the lime treatments, you will be taking care of the Calcium deficiency and raising the pH.
3) Use Dolomitic Lime, and don't fall for marketing pitches on 'Quick Lime' or 'Fast-Acting,' Dolomitic Lime has a high percentage of Magnesium, which triggers enzymes in the leaf to improve growth.
4) Don't lime every month. Contrary to the popular belief that lime takes 6 to 12 weeks to break down and take effect, the reality is that it begins working as soon as there is water present. The initial pH will swing up drastically and then level off to what some soil tests call a buffer pH. If you lime every month, you would be keeping the pH too high, which ties up the iron in the soil and would lead to chlorosis (this is why it was once believed that lime kills Centipede, which is particularly sensitive to iron deficiency). Instead, do 50# applications every 6 months, but not more often than that.
5) Fungi: I gathered that you decided against adding rotten wood, which is good. There are different fungal pathogens that break wood down. One of the posts noted seeing, "a lot of fungus growth (the type you see growing on the sides of decaying trees)." These are called Fungal Conks and are essentially mushrooms minus a stem. Both Mushrooms and Conks are the fruiting bodies of wood decaying fungi and are very common. However, for tree remains (and there are always some amount of roots left several feet deep) the capillary action in the soil, which brings water to the surface doesn't just form mushrooms. In some cases, it forms a disease called Fairy Ring. Fairy Rings usually begin with a ring of mushrooms varying from 3' to 40' in diameter. As the disease progresses, it forms a dark ring on the outside rim and in very advanced cases, it makes bulls eye in the middle while killing or simply yellowing everything else in the ring. Before you go on, ask what would cause the green up around the circle? Plants are simple, they respond to nutrition without regard for where it's from. The fungal pathogen fixates Nitrogen as it attacks the dead wood. Thus causing the greening. However, the middle of the circle runs into a problem. The fungus advances and forms a mild slime that suffocates the roots. Now if you have coarse arid soil, the air will suppress the fungus from reaching that point. If it doesn't a quick aeration followed by a fungicide treatment, would alleviate the issue in a matter of weeks. But again, just introducing sand in the root zone will help offset the risk.
6) Fertilizer: For future reference, they do sell fertilizers that are one item for certain types of applications. Potash is the most poplular form of K, and most often product sold separate from the other fertilizers. I would call around to the local nurseries and see what they carry. I used a 0-0-20 with humic acid and iron on Fescue for most of the Summer. The customer was amazed at how it was suddenly drought tolerant, so I suspect that someone in a local nursery can provide you with what you need.

I hope that is a coherent enough response. I'm battling my eye lids at this point, but please contact me if you have any questions.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fair Ring in Bermuda (early stage)

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 12:42AM
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Thanks! I'll get some sand and work it into the dirt at the stump area. If I start seeing mushrooms, is it good to dig them out or does it not matter? I'll definitely keep a watch for circles and see about aeration and fungicide if it develops. My magnesium tested at 146 lb/Ac, which was H- (a bit high). I have read that if magnesium is high, you should avoid dolomitic lime. is that correct? I will plan to lime only every six months. And look for some plain potash. I thought about using Roundup on the weeds/grass present, but everything is still dormant so it may not do much. I'm going to cut it all low and rake good. Hopefully the new grass will take off and be able to compete.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 4:14PM
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I gather that you have pretty tight clay soil in this area. A calcium to magnesium ratio like that usually means that the soil structure is very poor. The high magnesium doesn't directly damage the turf, rather it leads to root development problems because of poor water penetration. Your plans to incorporate compost will improve the soil structure more than anything.

Going with an Agricultural Lime is perfectly fine in your case and will take care of the Calcium deficiency, which will help balance the Ca:Mg ratio. Ag Lime is essentially the same thing. Dolomitic lime is a form of quick lime just as Ag Lime is, but to be considered dolomitic it has to have been derived from limestone containing 35% magnesium carbonate. The Ag Lime will still have magnesium carbonate, but in a considerably lower percentage, which again won't be a problem considering the compost addition and higher Calcium content.

As for the mushrooms, other than adding them to a salad, there isn't any need to dig them out. I don't want to cause paranoia about the fungi in the soil. Most fungi and bacteria are beneficial in that they fixate nutrients, breakdown thatch, and can even improve root function in plants. Fairy ring isn't worth treating until it begins to damage the lawn, which is less likely to happen when you take the measures you're taking now.

As for the installation, I provided a link to a very small project I did last Fall. It includes a handful of pictures with notations that may help.

I live and work in Atlanta, so for me lawns are still an escape, so my biggest advice is to have fun with the project.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fixing Problem Areas

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 1:42AM
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I don't know if sitting in a pile of muddy wood chips and pushing them a 5 gallon bucket with a trowel for hours and hours and moving 8 cubic yards of dirt by bucket and little red wagon can be considered fun. It was manual labor. Maybe the heavy buckets helped build some muscles.There is some satisfaction to have it over with. The stump grinder offered to take the chips away, but no, I wanted them to make a border down one side of the yard. I now have the border which has two wooden raised beds for vegetables and two planting beds for shrubs and flowers. And I have another new flower bed in the back corner and an improved one in the front. The fun part will be planting them this spring. I am very happy with the topsoil/compost I got. It's dark, soft, smells woodsy. The soil already here does have a lot of clay. This is the first time in 40 years that we've planted grass, put down fertilizer or lime, in the backyard. With the huge maple shading the whole yard it was pointless to try to grow anything. The moss and violets and weeds were green and we kept it cut and enjoyed the coolness of the shade. Now without the tree, grass will have a chance. And, now being retired, I will have time to tend things. The new flower beds are mounds of the new dirt, where I've scraped back the chips in the new border. So the chips are holding the dirt in until the plants' roots start holding it together. The chips will last for a while before they rot. For the bed in the corner, I have mats of wet leaves from the leaf pile I saved last fall as the border on three sides (there's also a fence on two sides) and chips as the border on one side (which is a diagonal in the corner) with a low wall of rocks to help keep the chips in place. It's an experiment--a way to try to make a raised bed in a flexible shape without a lot of hard materials.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 8:58AM
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Hi seren you have a give a good information. It is very helpful. I am implementing it. Thanks for giving information in a detailed form.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 1:57PM
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