Friday, November 11, 2011

If You Must Poison a Tree...

If you must poison a tree, do it right! Most of my readers prefer organic methods, but once in a while a stump is in a difficult spot, cannot be visited regularly enough, or is maintained by someone so feeble that poisoning is a justifiable option.

Here are a few steps to doing the job right:

Consider whether poison is the best option. Most of the time a truly organic option is best. A thirty dollar pick and an hour swinging it would take care of this stump for good. The pick will last a life time, but a bottle of weed killer costs between ten and twenty dollars and has a limited shelf life.

Understand the biology of the tree. The wood where this cross has been cut has tubes transporting water and nutrients up the tree. The green layer under the bark transports water and sugar down into the roots. Put the poison only on the green portion where it will go down into the roots.

Minimise the amount of poison you use. If some is good, more is not better.

Plan for re-sprouting. You may find it is better to cut the sprouts down every two weeks, than to cut and poison them every four weeks.

Anytime you use a chemical, even an organic one, it should be the last viable option. What is viable is your determination, but chemicals should never be your first and most trusted options.


  1. Have you any advice for controlling "trees of heaven?" I have a long, narrow lot in Provo and the abutting neighbor has a large t-o-h which sends shoots up everywhere - EVERYWHERE. (Is there an emoticon for screaming and pulling out hair?) Thanks. Faye

  2. You need to one of two things first. Either dig down two feet and place a root barrier along your property line. Failing that you need to politely (and usually over a period of time) explain to your neighbor what problem the trees are.

    If your neighbor is reasonable and you presented your case well you can work together to solve the problem. If your neighbor is not reasonable you need to get really good at swinging a pick or talk to a legal expert about your legal rights and responsibilities if the poison you are using moves into the roots of your neighbors trees.

    If all the trees are cut down you can control regrowth by placing a good thick decomposable sheet over a very wide area an placing three feet of mulch on top of that. That being said, sometimes poisons make some sense.

    Contact me direct at if you need any more help.

    Good luck Faye!