Organic way to get rid of unwanted trees?

spazboy357(6b/7a Long Island,NY)July 23, 2008

New member here and before I upset anyone, please let me explain why I need (not want) to kill trees.

My elderly mother-in-law recently passed away and left my wife (and therefore *me*) with a house/landscape in need of serious attention. My father-in-law passed away several years ago after an extended period of disability (approx 20 years of walking with 2 canes). All of this adds up to an unmaintained back yard of about 1/3 acre that is dominated by a few LARGE maples trees (75'-80' would be my guesstimate). About 2/3 of the area is covered entirely by English Ivy. (The rest is a mess left over after the septic system was redone.) With the ivy running free, the maples have deposited their seeds for a couple of decades and the resulting 'volunteer' trees (more than 50 of them at 2"+ diameter) are overcrowded and unattractive. The Ivy has killed a few and windfall branches have made the entire mess hazardous to walk through. All in all, it looks like a forest more than an enjoyable outdoor space and will make it difficult for us to sell the house without some serious work.

Of course, this would be a simpler task if I wanted to splash Round Up all over the place, but I'd rather not do that if I can avoid it. I'll be pulling many of the smaller trees out of the ground, but anything over about 3"-4" diameter will be cut at ground level. A stump grinder is an option for some stumps, but many are too close to fences to grind out safely and I'd like to prevent the stumps sprouting new trees if possible.

Sorry for the long post and thanks in advance for any help or advice.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
stompede(z7 VA)

The easiest way to kill the largest trees is to cut them and apply concentrated glyphosate (the active ingredient in Round Up) to the cut end. It may take a second application if the trees are vigorous. You can apply it with a paint brush. In fact, you don't have to spray Round Up. You can mix up the desired amount in a bucket and use a paint brush on any plant, eliminating the threat of spray drift. I've used cotton gloves to apply it too, with 12 mil rubber gloves on underneath. There are products that supposedly aid in stump decomposition, however some research I recently heard about says there is no noticeable difference between stumps treated and untreated.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2008 at 10:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If you're totally opposed to using any sort of modern chemical herbicide - and it's fine if you are - then you're pretty much limited to grinding stumps and/or constantly cutting off suckers sprouting from stumps/roots for years to come until they've exhausted all their stored reserves.

You don't have to 'splash RoundUp all over the place' - though it's pretty innocuous and short-lived, as herbicides go. Targeted use of appropriate herbicides, used as a stump or frill treatment really poses minimal environmental & human/animal health concerns. You don't have slosh it all over Creation - just apply to the exposed cambium layer just beneath the bark, when you cut down or girdle the tree - no widespread application, just targeted use.
I prefer Pathway/Tordon, or Brush-B-Gone(or other similar 2,4-D/triclopyr formulations labeled for stump treatment) for woody plants like trees, but many recommend full-strength Roundup(glyposate, 50%).

    Bookmark   July 23, 2008 at 10:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
spazboy357(6b/7a Long Island,NY)

I guess that I should probably vary my approach depending on the location and the tree in question. I'll pull out whichever ones I can, grind the ones that are accessible, and treat the ones that I have to treat. I hadn't thought of using RoundUp with a brush, but I'm not really all that bright. I'm assuming that any large garden center will have these chemicals.

Thanks to all for the assistance and advice.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2008 at 11:47AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

WE ARE TALKING 100% ROUNDUP ... i put it in a dollar store ketchup bottle .... with appropriate markings ... even a dish detergent bottle with a top that can be closed .. recycle, eh ...

cut tree ... apply just to the cambian layer.. which is the green line between the bark and the interior wood ... no need for a brush ... i am 99% sure.. it is labeled for such application ...

in the alternative... there are 'brush and stump' killers .. use according to the label .... ...

i would say 90% effective... and the few that resprout.. properly mix roundup according to stump killing instructions .. and spray whatever pops up .. while it is a foot tall ...

every green leaf will feed the giant root mass .... if you leave them.. without followup ... they will be 2 inchers again.. within a year or two ...

JUST NEVER FORGET .. ROUNDUP OR GENERIC CREDIT AINT FRENCH PERFUME... NEVER ATOMIZE IT ... play with a pump tank with plain water.. adjust the nozzle and very low pressure until you can see drops coming out the wand.. drops .. affected by gravity.. fall to the earth ... atomize it like perfume.. and i will drift in any breeze.. a little practice.. and you will not have problems ...

good luck


    Bookmark   July 24, 2008 at 12:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Dibbit(z7b SC)

Mechanical removal, which takes time and is ongoing for however long it takes, is the only organic way I know. I share your reservations about the various herbicides, but Roundup is about the most innocuous one out there. Vinegar, which is listed as organic, only kills off the greenery it touches, and doesn't get roots, so won't work on woody plants/tree sprouts.

If you COULD spread black plastic over the entire area, you would, over the course of 6-9 months, kill off everything that was growing under it. I don't recommend it, both in terms of the expense and effort of spreading it, and the unaesthetic results of so doing, plus the effort of picking the whole mess up again when you think it is "done" and disposing of the plastic. As well, anything that can escape out the sides, or has shoots that grow out the sides, can feed roots, and will then pop right back when the plastic is removed. But, it is an option.

You could put down several over-lapping layers of flattened cardboard, once everything not wanted has been cut at ground level, and then 4-6" of mulch over that, covering all the edges well. This would also kill off everything under it, and have the advantage of being relatively organic. You would have a back yard of only mulch, but, with the addition of pathways and deliberately planted shrubs and perennials, after the first few months, would look purposeful.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2008 at 2:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
rcnaylor(z7 Tex)

Good advice on the trees, but... I bet you wind up using more herbicide on the ivy before you have the cleanup done.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2008 at 2:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
spazboy357(6b/7a Long Island,NY)

Ken - I think I've got it now. What I'm looking for is -not- the RoundUp that comes pre-mixed in spray applicators at HD/Lowes/etc., but rather a concentrated form that I can put directly onto the cambian layer of the stump with a brush or bottle. Great idea about the ketchup/detergent bottle!

Dibbit - I'll probably be using a lot of cardboard/newspaper in the areas where the ivy is currently running wild. I'd rather avoid plastic if possible. I've figured out that it is actually more effective to just get a good pair of gloves and pull the stuff up rather than going at it with a weed whacker or lawn mower. The soil underneath the ivy is the best soil on the entire property, I guess 20+ years of leaves falling from the trees and not getting raked will do that. Probably the same reason there are so many volunteer trees out there...

rcnaylor - I'm keeping my fingers crossed that pulling rather than cutting will leave fewer repeat offenders to deal with. And I've already started scoping out sources for cardboard and mulch to bury the ones that do try to stick their heads back up. I'm lucky that the town actually runs a composting facility where homeowners can take all their yard waste and get as much compost and/or "wood chips" as they wish. Admittedly, the free stuff is not top quality, but I'll screen and use it rather than buy enough to cover 1/3 acre.

Thanks again to all of you for the advice.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2008 at 7:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

let me rephrase what i MEANT TO SAY ... lol ...

100% concentrated glyphosate is 41% ... seriously ....

my point was .. as you now know ... is that we are not talking about premixes ...a t 1 .. 2 .. or 3 %

and it does NOT have to be roundup ... use the chemical name to buy cheap ...

promise you will take the time to read all the instructions .... i am positive that roundup and credit[the generic] are listed as stump killers at 50 to 100 % ...

i spent 4 years killing poison ivy vines.... i wouldnt waste my time with any vine short of nuclear warfare ... i dont care how easy it sounds.. newspaper or plastic nor anything else is going to be easy work ... start spraying .... in this application.. the instructions will advise as to the proper dilution for WOODY vines .... and dont forget about practicing with water in the sprayer.. and finding drops vs atomizing .. per above...

good luck


    Bookmark   July 25, 2008 at 9:23AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have used the glyphosate 41% concentration with great results. Here in SC one of the most invasive, hard-to-kill nusiance species is the Carolina Laurelcherry, and it even works on that. You can be very precise in the application of the poison, so you're not wreaking havoc on adjacent vegetation. HOWEVER, ya gotta do it right when you cut the tree. A plant pathologist once told me that technique is a great way to kill an unwanted tree, but you have to apply the poison to a freshly cut stump; even a few hours' delay and the plant would have formed a scab over the cut area and it wouldn't be nearly as susceptible to the herbicide as it is right after you cut it.

If you want to avoid the herbicide altogeter, I've used this trick with some success: Cut off the stump near ground level, drill several big holes (1/2 inch or so)vertically in the wood near the cambium, and fill the holes with lye. While concentrated lye is toxic to that particular tree, eventually it gets diluted. Lye is potassium hydroxide, and I assume the K+ might even be beneficial to the surrounding area when it gets diluted and absorbed by other plants.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2008 at 11:16AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I haven't done it myself, and maybe you'd need expert help, but is burning the stump not an option? Cut out the bottom of a large metal coffee can, put it around the stump, burn it--and stay on the premises until the fire is out, pouring several gallons of water on it and leaving the can several days. Maybe that's completely unsafe in a residential area; it's what my grandpa does for invasive species on the farm.

Here are some nonprofits in NY state that may be able to offer expertise.

Maybe they'll dig for you and take the trees somewhere else. At the very least, they know that trees are only beneficial if planted properly and probably can help guide you to remove the unwanteds.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 25, 2008 at 12:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
spazboy357(6b/7a Long Island,NY)

Once again, thanks to all for ideas and suggestions.

Ken - Got it. I may not be able to find the generic glyphosate, but I've already located a source for RoundUp concentrate. And I've rescued a couple of dishwashing liquid bottles from the recycling for direct application to freshly cut stumps.

Arley - I think that I'll be using the 'drill and fill' method for the stumps that I can't pull out or grind out. Drill as many 1" holes into the stump as possible, fill with high nitrogen fertilizer, and keep it damp. If I can find a cheap source of lye, I'll try a couple of stumps just for the sake of comparison and go with the method that works best.

Adnama - Unfortunately, it is illegal to burn anything where the house is located. Not one leaf, not one twig, not ever. Long Island is an over-regulated, HOA-loving, suburban blight on the face of the planet. I did actually speak to someone at a local arboretum about this problem (no help) and they were the one to tell me about the "no burn" laws. As for anyone taking the trees, I really doubt anyone will want my surplus weed maples but I'll give a look at those links.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2008 at 6:07PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Cherry Tree Looks Ready to Split
We have a cheery tree in our front yard with a split...
Chinese Pistache Pruning
My parent's have two Chinese Pistache that they are...
Trunk Rot. Should I shovel prune or can this little JM recover?
shovel prune or is this something it can recover from?...
Indoor Dogwood Tree
Hi, I'm looking to grow a dogwood tree indoors in our...
Are these roots that are forming on a callery pear cutting in water?
As you may know, i took cuttings of a flowering pear...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™