Early this summer we cut three sour cherry trees in the orchard that were mostly dead. There is a fungus in our area that affects cherry trees, causing them to open wounds and ooze reddish sap in big blobs that harden on the bark like tree carbuncles. The stump at right has some of the gummy sap at the top. These trees succumbed to the fungus, in addition to not tolerating being heavily pruned. My husband sawed the stumps as low to the ground as he could. Several inches of solid wood still project above the surface, enough obstacle to catch the rotary mower when I’m working in the orchards.
Stumps are difficult to remove. People burn them out, dig them up or hire expensive stump grinders to get rid of them. I’ve been researching methods to naturally remove stumps without starting a fire, spending big bucks, or wearing myself out digging. An alternative method involves introducing chemicals into the stump that speed decomposition. Commercially available stump removers containing potassium nitrate work to accelerate rotting of the wood, but I want to use something more natural.
I stumbled across information about using urea, a concentrated nitrogen fertilizer. The fertilizer is in pelleted form and has an analysis of 45-0-0, all nitrogen. The process is to drill holes in the stump, as deep as possible. Then the holes are filled with the fertilizer and watered well. The stump is covered to keep it moist and allow the microbes to flourish.
The stump I chose as an experiment is dead, but not very rotted. The wood is hard with just some central dry punky area. Using my hand held antique bit and brace I drilled five holes about 1/2″ wide and 6″ deep. I suspect the more numerous and larger the holes, the better this works, but I’m just experimenting to see if urea causes wood to rot more rapidly.
Into each hole I poured urea until they were full. The weather predictions are for heavy rain overnight and tomorrow so I will let nature take care of the watering of the stump. After the rain and before the wood dries, I will cover the stump with old wet hay, plastic, and some stones to keep the chickens off. After several weeks, I’ll check the progress of decomposition to see if adding urea has any effect. Stay tuned…