Removing old shrubs

emmalewinskiFebruary 20, 2006

I just moved and have about a dozen very tired and half-dead boxwoods I need to remove from the front of my new house. I hate taking them out, but they are truly awful.

Does anyone have any advice on the best way to go about this? Some of them are quite large (see picture below), and I'm guessing it won't be possible to simply remove them with a shovel. I've considered chaining them to my truck and trying to yank that a crazy idea? Would it be better to simply cut them down and hire someone to grind the stumps? I plan on replacing them with something else, so I'm concerned about leaving huge tangles of roots behind.

I'm in the habit of planting and adding, not removing, so I've never faced this problem. I would really appreciate any input.



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karinl(BC Z8)

Truck is not such a bad idea. I'm envious - I would have like to do this with a flowering quince recently but it is planted on my water line. Similarly, you should ensure you are not damaging any underground services by doing so.

On the other hand, the whole root network does not have to come out. I don't think these will resprout from the roots and so you could dig (or use a shopvac) just enough to get to the roots, saw or lop them off, and just lift out the crown. I make that sound easy, don't I? It isn't. But it can be done.

On the OTHER hand, have you considered trying a hard prune first to see if you can make them bearable?

Nice place, by the way!

    Bookmark   February 21, 2006 at 1:07PM
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Oh, Karin, I am SO glad you reminded me about underground lines and pipes. I was joking with my neighbor that I would end up taking out the foundation, but never thought about underground utilities!

I know I can't prune these back into anything I can live with. You can't see it in the picture, but these were planted in a wacky line that doesn't even run parallel to the house. That alone drives me nutty, but in addition, they are all dead and bare on the backsides. They've had a good run, and have to go.

Thanks for the reminder about water lines, etc.!


    Bookmark   February 21, 2006 at 2:54PM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

I'd just cut them down and plant new shrubs in and around them. They look like they're too close to the porch anyhow, so if you plant in front of the stumps, in a year or two you won't even see what's left of them.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2006 at 6:31AM
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Yes, you can probably pull them out with a chain on your pick-em-up truck, but be careful. It depends on what kind of truck and where you put the chain. Those large shrubs could pull and bend a bumper. You might try your trailer hitch depending on the load factor. My husband has done it this way at our old house. Now he has a tractor, so if you know someone who has one, I'd recommend borrowing it.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2006 at 11:19AM
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gottagarden(z5 western NY)

Remember America's funniest home videos? The guy had a chain around shrubs to his pickup, and then he took off. After a lot of resistance the chain snapped back and came smashing through the rear windshield. HaHaHaHa - make sure you are careful.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2006 at 2:01PM
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I DO remember that clip, gottagarden! My stomach just rolled over imagining that happening to me. Maybe I'll go with a different method...that isn't how I want to get my fifteen minutes of fame.


    Bookmark   February 24, 2006 at 7:50AM
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little_dani(9, S. Tex Coast)

We dug 23 boxwoods out of a yard in about an hour and a half once. The shrubs were at least 35 years old.

They were pretty easy to dig, even with our black gumbo soil. We sold them all to some Bonsai enthusiasts, and everybody was happy!

Old boxwoods like these make excellent Bonsai!


    Bookmark   February 25, 2006 at 9:29AM
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leslies(z7 No VA)

I took down 8 elderly yews last summer that were also too close to the house (12 INCHES!!!!). They had pretty massive root systems which I left in the ground, but planting new shrubs at the right distance from the house wasn't very hard. I figure in ten or twenty years, all those roots will be nicely rotted.....

    Bookmark   February 28, 2006 at 3:56PM
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terryr(z5a IL)

We removed 2 boxwoods, have 2 more to yank. Ours dug out really easy. Not much root to speak of. We used a pick up or chains

    Bookmark   February 28, 2006 at 6:53PM
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Thank you for the advice. It sounds like I should try the shovel method before turning to something more extreme! As soon as it warms up and the ground thaws I'll give it a whirl.


    Bookmark   March 1, 2006 at 8:09AM
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If you loosen it up by slicing the roots in a circle around the plant, the truck will do the rest without dificulty..a couple quick jerks maybe a stubborn root to cut...another jerk and shes out ,nothing broken...these guys are a lot of work with a shovel alone

    Bookmark   March 1, 2006 at 9:53PM
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Nice visual, crunchpa. That is what I was picturing. Is that just a "come along" strap being used?

    Bookmark   March 2, 2006 at 7:47AM
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Its a tow strap...just like a rachet strap without the buckles...they are a better,safer option to chain...easier to store...i put a ball on my truck for this use..i dont tow anything...just have someone watch the plant and you can tell where a stuborn root may be...digging these guys out can be done but i got this one out in 15 minutes by myself without breaking a bead

    Bookmark   March 2, 2006 at 8:25PM
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Thanks for the info, crunchpa. I appreciate it.


    Bookmark   March 3, 2006 at 7:55AM
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