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If you’ve started doing your research on removing a tree from your yard, you may be wondering what you can do with that space once the work is complete. Taking this tree out may be a difficult call for you to make since trees often become cherished members of our families, especially if they’re long-lived. And if you’re removing the tree due to age or disease or because it was damaged, you may want to still have a tree in that space, even if it’s smaller or a different species than the one before it. But you may ask: can I plant a tree where a stump was? The simple answer is no. Generally, it’s a better idea to plant your new tree in a new spot.

But we know you might have limited space in your yard or that you might like where the shade from that tree hits your back porch in the summertime. Planting a tree in that same space might be your only option. But we do recommend not planting a tree exactly in that same hole. Aim for a spot six to eight feet away, if possible. If that’s not possible, there are ways to prepare the space so it will feel like new for your new tree.

Here are three reasons why you shouldn’t plant a tree where the stump was and a few actions you can take to mitigate those problems.

1. Trees Must Eat Too

And when trees eat, they take in nutrients from the soil, far down where you aren’t normally able to reach. When we fertilize trees, usually those nutrients don’t penetrate very deeply into the tree’s root system. Your previous tree may have eaten up all the nutrients in the soil, especially deep down, where the new tree’s roots are going to go, so establishing a new tree in that space may take a lot more work than you’re expecting.

You may think that the sawdust left behind from grinding out the previous tree could solve this problem for you, but the nutrient balance could be completely wrong for your new tree, and it may not thrive in that environment. Plus, using sawdust as mulch in this area is a double-edged sword since sawdust is acidic. Your rhododendrons and blueberries will love it … your new tree, maybe not so much.

Sawdust is a woody material and requires nitrogen to decompose. As it breaks down, it will suck the nitrogen right out of the soil, and your new tree won’t get a chance to use that nitrogen to establish itself as a healthy tree. In fact, using sawdust as a mulch for your new tree will make the tree weaker overall, making it more susceptible to pests or diseases.

If you’re certain you want to establish a new tree where a stump was, you’ll just have to be sure to add extra nitrogen when you plant the tree. For every 50 pounds of dry sawdust, you’ll want to add a pound of actual nitrogen. This will ensure your new tree has some support when you plant it.

2. Your Diseased Tree Might Still Cause You Some Headaches


If you removed this tree because of disease or pests, planting a tree where that stump was may perpetuate the disease or pest problem, and you could have to remove this tree in the near future as well. You may think that the pathogen isn’t there anymore because the stump has been ground out. But the pathogen might have spread all the way down into the roots.

Some tree removal companies do offer services to dig out all the roots of the tree (not just grinding the stump out), but it may be difficult to tell how far that pathogen has gone. After all, the major roots of a tree are easy to find and dig out, but can you dig out all the minor roots too? It could be an extremely difficult task, costing you heartache and money, and the process could be very invasive on top of that.

But if that spot is the only place you have to plant your new tree, it isn’t an insurmountable issue. You can choose a tree that is resistant to that particular disease or pest.

3. Location, Location, Location

Sometimes a tree dies or needs to be removed for reasons other than infection or infestation. Many species of trees have natural immune systems and are often able to fight off diseases or pests (much as humans fight off colds). But that immunity can be reduced or even bypassed if there is an underlying problem due to the placement of the tree. Maybe that location wasn’t able to meet the tree’s needs.

Investigate the space and determine whether the soil was the right type for the tree you had removed, what kind of water and sun it received all day, and what kind of fertilizing and maintenance it received throughout its life. You can also ask a trained arborist, such as the staff at Vernon Imel Tree Service, to assess these things. Then use this information to choose a species of tree that will thrive in that location. Providing the right environment for your tree is important to its overall health.

4. Space to Thrive

The roots of your old tree, as previously mentioned, may still be in the ground, taking up space. If you plant that new tree right away, it may not have the space it requires to get a good hold. The old roots may simply be taking up all the space that your new tree needs.

If this is the case and you want to plant a tree right in that same hole, just give it some time. If you prepare the space and give it a year or so, you’ll be able to make it a place where a new tree will thrive. One year’s worth of time will give those old roots time to decompose. Your new tree will find it much easier to push these aside as it searches for nutrients and water, and it may even be able to use those old roots as food as well.

Remove as much of the sawdust as you can (unless you want to add that nitrogen), add some topsoil and even compost if it’s in a good location. Your hard work will make it feel like a brand-new space for your new tree, and it will have a much easier time getting used to its new home in the space where a stump used to be.