If time is of the essence or you have a fresh tree stump you want to remove, hand-digging the stump out may be your best option.
Step 1: Cut the tree or bush down to a manageable height. Trim away excess foliage and branches. Leave enough height and a few good branch stubs to help create leverage when it comes time to pull or rock the stump out of the ground.
Step 2: Dig a trench around the circumference of the stump, at least 15 inches from its base. The further out the trench is dug, the easier it will be to dig. If the soil is dry, water it some before digging, but not so much as to turn the soil to mud.
Step 3: Use a root saw or a digging bar to sever the roots as you dig. Root saws have multidirectional teeth that can cut roots through the soil. A 5- or 6-foot digging bar with a flat edge on one end works well to break through exposed roots. Thrust the digging bar into the trench at a 45-degree angle toward the stump to cut through each root. When hitting thicker roots with a digging bar, it may be necessary to use a mallet to hammer the bar through the root.
Step 4: Once the trench has been dug and the roots have been severed, rock the stump back and forth to loosen it. It will be difficult to move at first, but as it is rocked it will become easier. Cut away any newly exposed roots as they appear.
Step 5: When the stump begins to loosen, use the digging bar to pry it up out of the ground.
Step 6: Continue cutting the roots as you rock and pry the stump loose. Eventually, the stump will break free from the soil.
Step 7: Once the stump has been removed, fill the hole with loose soil and compost. Sow some seed over the fresh dirt, or cover it with mulch, to prevent weeds and control erosion while you decide what to do with your newly vacated piece of land.
— Linda Cottin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.