Speeding up break down of tree stump


January 20, 2007|By Jon Traunfeld and Ellen Nibali | Jon Traunfeld and Ellen Nibali,Special to The Sun

How can we hasten the decomposition of a tree stump? Can we buy something that helps?

Expose more of the stump's surface area to decomposing organisms and oxygen by sawing a cross hatch of shallow grooves into the cut top or drilling holes. This will also help the wood stay moist. Decomposing organisms also need nitrogen to decompose wood, so lightly sprinkle a high nitrogen fertilizer onto the surface. Meanwhile, you can make your stump look purposeful by using it as a pedestal for birdbath or garden ornament. I'm making plans for spring planting. How much sunlight exactly is meant by those half-sun icons?

Different sources use the terms partial shade, semi-shade and light shade differently. The icons may mean about four to five hours of direct sunlight, though not all sunlight is equal. Midday and early-afternoon sun is hotter and brighter. In the morning and late afternoon, the sun is at an angle, and light is weaker.

On the other hand, partial shade can mean no direct sun and only filtered shade cast by an open-canopied tree, as opposed to solid shade from a Norway maple or building. Plants labeled for partial shade will vary in their tolerance. Take these factors into consideration when making plant choices, but, if young plants are unhappy, it is not terribly difficult to move them.


Check with your county/city recycling office to learn about amnesty days at local landfills for household hazardous wastes, including pesticides.

Order some easy-to-grow edible landscape fruits to plant this spring, such as blueberry, currant, elderberry and gooseberry.

Jon Traunfeld, regional specialist, and Ellen Nibali, horticulture consultant, work at Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center, which offers Maryland residents free gardening information. Call the center's "hotline" at 800-342-2507 or e-mail plant and pest questions through the Send a Question feature at hgic.umd.edu.

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