Planting a new tree on top of old

sheryl77June 12, 2012

About 5 years ago I had an old birch tree removed and the stump ground down about 5 inches below the surface. It had a base of about 42-45 inches. I'd like to plant a new tree directly on the spot where the stump is because it is directly in the center of where the sprinklers spray. If I offset the tree, there will end up being a brown spot where the new tree would block the water.

I contacted a guy who grinds stumps and he said he could grind the stump down another 16". Would that be far enough down? The stump is hard near the surface but rotting below a few inches.

Is it at all feasible for me to put the new maple tree on the exact spot where my old birch tree was? I know it is not preferable.

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

Is it at all feasible for me to put the new maple tree on the exact spot

===>>> NO!!!


    Bookmark   June 13, 2012 at 7:56AM
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If you are sure it is already rotting under the soil and it is an area that sounds like it stays pretty moist from watering especially if you are in zone 5 in the northeast due to how generally wet your climate is, by the time the maple gets some size to it, the old birch roots may not pose much of a problem succumbing to rot and decay . HOWEVER, the old birch being 4' in diameter does make me wonder how large the roots underground are. Some maybe close to 3'... why not dig a couple feet away to explore what is actually under the soil and see if you encounter any humongous roots. If you plant a couple feet from the old stump, you could make a large mulch ring (small garden bed) for the new tree and plant some perennials on top of the old stump area. I would add some soil on top of the old stump for the perennials to give a little extra room for the roots.

Of course this is all dependent on whether or not you run in to some monster roots during exploration. I would not plant directly on top of the old stump personally.


    Bookmark   June 13, 2012 at 9:41AM
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I would also be hesitant to do so unless I had a very good handle on the root situation from the previous tree. I have done it once and used a very slow-growing and small replacement. To date the replacment is doing well, but I do not expect a large amount of new root growth for years, at which time there should be no competition with what is left of the previous planting. That being said I am comfortable with using stock as small as two year and being successful with it. Not something everybody would be committed to.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2012 at 11:25AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

what.. you want more than one word ...

to rot.. the dead stuff underground needs water.. which it will steal from the new one.. and uses nitrogen in the breakdown process ... and can cause heat.. which might not be conducive to the babes roots ...

i figure you will be hard pressed to hold moisture at depth.. where the new plants roots are supposed to be happy ...

think of it this way.. could you plant one in an active compost pile???? i say NO .... how then are the rotting roots not an underground compost pile ???

i would not spend more money on grinding it deeper..

and all the grindings should be removed from the area.. it will be great compost in a year or two.. but you will be hard pressed to grow even grass in or on it.. right now ...

start digging hole out 3 to 4 feet from the old trunk.. until you find a space big enough.. in native soil.. to plant you new tree ... and avoid the whole mess entirely ...

you have set yourself in a box .. of wanting the new.. in PRECISELY the same spot.. step out of the box.. and find an alternative ...


ps: be prepared for a spectacular mushroom show.. over the next few years.. as the old roots rot .. consider a FREE show of mother nature ... and ignore it.. it will go away.. when the wood is fully rotted .. they are in fact.. aiding the rotting process .. its natures way .. refer to link

Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   June 13, 2012 at 12:11PM
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Trees grow into and out of old trees and stumps all the time in the woods. On a recent trip to Maine, I saw no less than 3(!!) seedling conifers growing OUT OF a stump. I also have a miniature forest growing in and around a huge old dead for a decade oak on the property. The rotting roots don't seem to be of a problem for the 100 or so trees growing around it. And you are planting a water seeking fiend maple that will put roots everywhere possible. Probably will end up putting roots into the rotting birch roots that soak up water and slowing make them crack into smaller pieces. Heck in all honesty, you could add a couple feet of topsoil directly on top of the stump, plant a maple out of a 5 gallon container, mulch it, and water it for a year and I bet it would grow just fine. But I would still go at least a couple feet away from the stump and put a big ole mulch ring around the new tree.


    Bookmark   June 13, 2012 at 12:46PM
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jimbobfeeny(5a IN)

It would be hard to tell... Was the tree dead and well on its way to rotting? There's a stump in my backyard (pretty punky by now) that has a few eastern red cedars sprouting out of it. I've even got a redbud in the front yard with cedars sprouting in it!

If the tree was still alive when you cut it down, then the roots are probably still hard - Roots will not penetrate hard wood. Being a birch, though, it will probably rot down pretty quickly. How much moisture do you get in a year? Around here we get about 40 inches a year on average (not this year!), and stumps and logs rot down pretty quickly.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2012 at 8:18AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

Trees grow into and out of old trees and stumps all the time in the woods. On a recent trip to Maine, I saw no less than 3(!!) seedling conifers growing OUT OF a stump.

===>>> and how long did that stump sit there and rot.. before the seedlings came along..

one decade..

two decades.... three ...

for all we know.. it was fully rotted ... but structurally intact ...

besides.. seeds can do things.. that plants with 95% of their roots cut off in the transplant process ...


    Bookmark   June 14, 2012 at 9:09AM
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The point is rotting/rotted wood is not a deterrent to roots of growing trees. You know good and well if wood is kept very wet from a lawn watering system in an already area already prone to having high percip amounts without excessive prolonged heat, the wood will rot fairly quickly, especially a birch.


ps - a tree need not even be dead to support seedlings. I have seen trees with cavities that have accumulated debris growing seedling junipers. Also, potted trees do not have 95% root loss at planting more like 0-5%

    Bookmark   June 14, 2012 at 9:38AM
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I'm confused. I've been told repeatedly (and read) that with root rot from the "water mold?" phytoria, that the spores remain in the ground and wait for susceptible hosts then attack. Then I'm told in places where this occurs, NOT to replant with anything susceptible... even if drainage is increased, etc. When it's in your whole yard, then I'm stuck... I see things very prone to root rot (hydrangeas, viburnums, etc) growing in the woods and think surely there's been phytoria there?? But then I'm told by arborist I can't plant fringe trees, etc as they aRE (and have been damaged) and seven sons, viburnums, etc b/c if/when they contact any diseased wood deeper in ground or spores that can be airborn or water, even if planted high with much better drainage, they'll succumb..
Obviously, tearing up the yard and ammending, etc stirs eveything up and then I'm told not to plant anything except highly resistant and even then wait, longer is better...

It doesn't make sense, is it true that these trees I love (and have in pots, though some suffering through rot from being attackted by nearby thing) won't live if they survive their pot time/recovery? obviously, heavy clay soil, overwatering are out for some things, but... other areas where trees were lost from the disease but old roots still remain deep and lethal?? Reportedly with mobilizing their spores??

Please PLEASE help me make sense of this?? As I dig deep to break up clay, etc I still find the black or red/yucky remains of stuff, and like it or not, it's impossible to keep quaranteed..


    Bookmark   September 22, 2012 at 10:38PM
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Amy, simply put, your situation is something of an outlier. While phytopthera is a very real and potentially very destructive group of soil-inhabiting fungi, it is simply not true that most places are under such attack. Thankfully, it is a relative rarity.

While I do agree with Ken that OP has boxed herself in with the insistence that new tree go right on top of where old one was, I also agre with j0nd that there are several work-arounds. And that in nature, it is known that new trees in a forest stand actively use old root channels-of now deceased trees-to obtain easy rooting pathways. This has been documented. Also true-birch roots will not last long in a moist situation. Nor is the presence of underground root systems decomposing equatable to active compost heaps. There is nowhere near the heat generation in this situation. It's a very cold decomposition by comparison.


    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 12:53PM
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very tired at present +om, but read your message. it conflicts with the "old farmer" at the garden center today, but what the hell else am i to do, I can't overwinter 2 fringe trees and everything else, they'll die, I can't afford the right type of potting mix, i still have to fix drainage... the birch roots aren't the problem side, that's the bog side (well??) where there's a silver maple and elm (neighbors that have their roots just broken underneath (too wet) and smelling... maybe that's not bad, but until drainage improves somehow, only button bush survives...that's the side with no privacy

Other side is possible contaminated, it's steep slope, neighbor has old funky rotting fence that gets scary looking jungle looking red mushrooms (I worry about the dogs) and the weeds and CRAP that come from that are..oout of control, plus ivy rampant that just takes over, and his declining white pine roots, and then... chemicals??? that's a scary side, nothing grows..and the erosion washes bad things down that way and the other direction,

still some time... I feel I'm running out, learned a bit more from old gardener today... after his initial grouchy...he reinforced my notion that growing in pots in hard (no duh), he uses mix of leaf mold and simple pine bark. I told him I have now $4.25 for over a week, so I can't afford yet... funny my RIVER BIRCH died in moist situation... that lady from that garden cetner again didn't show, I lost a lot from them, that was their fault.. oh well, kinda wiped out.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 3:34PM
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famartin(z5 NE NV)

Depends on how big the maple tree is. You could get away with a small one with little problem. The larger tree you plant, the further down you'll need to dig to plant it.

I wouldn't worry about the previous tree causing problems once you've got the new one comfortably in the ground. As said already... trees die in the woods all the time and new trees grow up around, even right on top of them.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 5:01PM
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I planted a Red Sunset maple on top of a stump of a recently self destructed Bradford pear in a 2 foot by 2 foot tree pit in the sidewalk. No way around that. The city ground the pear down about 8 inches under the surface. I was aware that there'd be a lack of nitrogen while the pear rotted. Four years later and the maple is doing fine. I figured the roots would find their way around the pear until it decays.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 8:55PM
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I have planted a Species southerm Magnolia about 3 ft from a old red maple stump, and it is nicer than the same type tree in another part of my yard. I tried burning the stump with kerosene previously. It's only been a year or 2 after removing the red maple. That's my experience anyway. Here's a pic from this past spring I hope it does as well once the roots spread out more.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 9:29PM
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