It’s autumn—we’re right in the middle of an avalanche of pumpkins, football, turkey, the holiday season in general and fall DIY projects. The changing leaves don’t just herald the start of the holiday season; they also indicate the time you should start preparing your landscape for the colder weather to come.

If you recently cut down a tree and need to remove a stump in your yard, now is the time.

Stump removal can cost a pretty penny. If you’ve researched it at all, you know that depending on the size of your stump, you could be looking at well over $200 to have it removed by a professional. So why not DIY this project? Most stumps can be removed in three fairly straightforward steps.


Step 1: Shorten Your Stump

Stump removal isn’t the most elegant process, but it’s pretty straightforward. Use a stump grinder or chainsaw to cut your stump as close to the ground as possible. According to, the type of stump grinder you’ll need depends on the size and height above ground of your existing stump.

Step 2: Drill and Saltpeter

Saltpeter, technically known as potassium nitrate, helps break down the molecular structure of the wood faster. Because it speeds the rotting process, saltpeter makes it easier to dig or burn out the rest of the stump. To apply saltpeter, you’ll need to drill holes down into your stump. HGTV Gardens recommends using a 1-inch bit that’s eight to 12 inches long. Drill lots of holes down into your stump and stuff them with saltpeter, then pour boiling water over the top to dissolve. The saltpeter will take a month or so to do its thing.

Step 3: Add Fuel

This is where kerosene or fuel oil comes into play. In order to burn out the now-softened wood, you’ll want to soak your stump in either kerosene or fuel oil (experts don’t recommend gasoline). Pour a gallon or two of fuel over your stump and give it a couple of weeks to soak in, then repeat the process. After the liquid has completely penetrated the wood, light a match and drop it down in one of the holes you’ve already drilled, and watch it smolder.

According to The Family Handyman, you can expect the stump to smolder for days, so take some safety precautions first:

  • Clear all loose leaves and any other incendiaries away from the hole before you light the match
  • Envelop the stump in chicken wire to prevent leaves or anything else from falling into the smoldering stump and spreading a flame

Step 4: Take an Ax to It

Now, for the fun part: Dig the ax out of your tool shed, attack whatever is left, and then fill the remaining hole with a soil of your choice. If your stump is in a grassy area, feel free to lay down fresh seed, and you’re good to go with the rest of your autumn landscaping (or that mulled cider and football, whichever comes first).