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How to Clean Up After Stump Grinding

It’s an unfortunate fact that sometimes a tree cannot be saved and must be cut down. Maybe it’s diseased or damaged or unsafe to keep around for another reason. You may not want to keep a single lonely stump in the middle of your yard, and in fact, you might want to plant another tree in that space or close by. Stump grinding is the easiest way to handle this. A professional and efficient tree care company, such as Mr. Tree, can handle the stump for you.

But what should happen next? It may be annoying to deal with the aftermath, but just leaving the debris isn’t an option. Not only will the leftover sawdust and remains make your backyard look messy and ugly, but you could also deny a good boost of nitrogen to the soil that the next thing you plant will need to establish itself.

Machinery for cleaning up and grinding tree stumps

Here are our top four tips on how to clean up after stump grinding:

1. The Right Tools for the Job Make Everything Easier

Once the tree is down and the stump is ground out, you should act quickly. Make sure you have your tools on hand before the process starts so you can jump into cleanup. It’s fine if you need to wait until the next day for good daylight or for some weather to pass, but don’t delay for much longer.

After the work crews have left, you can expect to see piles of wood chips, rocks and pebbles, and perhaps some moved earth, as well as the hole the stump used to be in. While your pile of woodchips might look like fluffy fiber, some of those edges could potentially be sharp, so be sure that you’re wearing appropriate clothing—long pants and long sleeves are best. You’ll want to be sure you also have good boots to protect your feet and work gloves to protect your hands.

It’s good to have a shovel and a rake on hand, and a new tree or grass seed, depending on what you want to do with your new space. You should also have a wheelbarrow or a receptacle for your wood chips.

2. Have a Plan for What You Want To Do With Your Leftover Wood Chips

There are many things you can do with your new pile of wood chips. Depending on your situation, you may not only have the debris leftover from grinding the stump, but you may also have debris from the roots below the stump. Either way, you can expect a good pile of wood fibers you can use around your yard in various ways.

The first and most obvious way is as mulch. Of course, if your tree was removed because it was diseased, this won’t be the best thing for your garden because those diseased materials may spread the virus or pests to your other trees. But if your tree was simply weather-damaged or old, this is a really great way to put that nitrogen back into the soil.

Mulch keeps down weeds in your flower beds and garden rows, and it deters pests if you put it down as walkways and other landscaped surfaces. You can also put the wood chips directly into your compost heap to create soil. Mulch fibers break down slowly, so they’re great for adding volume to your compost pile.

You may want to use the wood chips for play areas, crafts and decor, or temporary erosion control (which is essential in the wet Pacific Northwest climate). And if you don’t have a need for any of these things, it shouldn’t take long to find someone who will need it. Offer the wood chips to your friends or neighbors.

3. To Replant or Not To Replant?

We’d love to hear that you’re planting a new tree after your old tree is taken down. However, you understand what is feasible for your space. Again, if your tree had to be removed due to a disease, it’s better to fill in this hole and plant your tree somewhere else, even if it’s close by. If you’re limited by space, and that’s the only place you can plant a new tree, there are some things you can do to mitigate possible future problems with your new tree. For instance, if it’s possible, try to plant your tree six or eight feet away from the original location. If that’s not possible, you can simply give it some time.

There may still be roots in the ground from your old tree, and that’s prime space that your new tree will need to establish itself and to get the nutrients it needs. Therefore, it might be best to go treeless for a little while. Fill in your hole, maybe seed it a little and give it some fertilizer or pack some compost in there. After a couple of years, those old roots will have broken down and decomposed enough that you can consider planting a new tree in that spot. By this time, your new tree may even be able to use those nutrients from the decomposed roots themselves.

Your work here will make this space feel like new for your new tree. Here are some tips about preparing your soil for a new tree when the time is right.

4. Have Patience and Have Fun in the Meantime

Waiting may be hard if you want to put a tree there. It can take a year or two for that space to become ideal for a new tree, so what do you do in the meantime? It may be that after the stump is ground out, that space looks bare and uninteresting. Have some fun with it: place an interesting yard feature where the stump used to be or create a seating area or a fire pit. This will also cover any bare spaces where the grass doesn’t cover and will keep your yard from looking upended and uprooted.