How to Remove A Small Tree?

Unwanted and invasive trees can be a very big nuisance, especially if you don’t know how to kill or remove them from your property. There are a ton of methods available online which can further confuse you if you are trying to remove a small tree from your yard.

Let’s have a look!

The best way to get rid of a small tree, depending on the species, would be to cut the tree down to its stump and uproot it. If you are dealing with invasive species such as elm or Russian Olive, the stump has to be treated with herbicide, such as Tordon, beforehand. That’s necessary to ensure the tree will not sprout back to life.

how to remove a small tree thumbail

How to Get Rid of a Small Tree?

If you are dealing with a small tree, the easiest and quickest method to remove one is by simply cutting it down. Because of the size, you don’t have to worry about possible damage to your property, and most of the time, you can get it done by yourself as well.

Keep in mind that you should still take all of the safety precautions while dealing with sharp objects and cutting down trees. This includes wearing goggles, a helmet, gloves, and full-sleeved clothes.

Felling the Tree

To carry out the process you will need an ax, a chainsaw, or a handsaw to cut down the tree.

Before you start cutting the tree, inspect the surrounding area. Plan which way you want the tree to fall, or which way a tree is likely going to fall. This way you can plan your escape routes.

Furthermore, measure and make sure that all the nearby property is at a safe distance. If not, then it is better to ask a help of a professional.

  1. Start cutting the tree from the side you want it to fall at a 70-degree angle. Try to make an angular ‘L’ shape while cutting it. (see the image below)
  2. When you reach halfway point, start slowly cutting from the opposite side, make sure this cut is in a straight line aligned with the bottom part of the ‘L’ from the opposite side.
  3. Don’t cut it all the way across, leave space of about 1/10th of the diameter of the tree between both the cuts.

The tree should begin to fall in the ‘L’ cut direction, you can also give it a slight push to facilitate it.

Once the tree starts falling, you should take one of your planned escape routes. Even a small falling tree can send splinters flying in all directions.

felling a tree first cut

Additional tips for cutting down a small tree

If the tree you are working on has low-hanging branches, remove all you can reach for before you start cutting the tree down. This gives you better access to the trunk, as well as makes the cleanup process easier later on.

If the tree you are working on has multiple trunks, start working on the ones that are located outside. In a nutshell, you should start working your way into the tree. That is necessary to make room for other, potentially bigger branches to fall.

Be aware that some trees need to be treated with herbicides, more on that in the next paragraph.

Killing the The Tree Stump

You will then be left with the stump of the tree. In some cases, the tree will die naturally but with some species, like elm or Russian olive you have to treat the stump with herbicide.

Here is an article explaining cut stump treatment in greater detail.

The best herbicide for treating trees would be Tordon. The herbicide has to be applied to the cambium layer of the tree, right after cutting it down. The treatment ensures that the roots of the tree die as well. Thus making sure the tree will not sprout back to life in the near future.

Uprooting the Tree or The Remaining Stump

After the stump has been treated with herbicide and died, you can uproot the stump if you like.

For that, saturate the soil with water one day before you start the process so that it becomes easier to uproot the stump the next day.

  1. Start by digging the soil around the stump, dig at least 1 foot deep.
  2. Try to expose as many roots as you can and dig out the biggest roots. That means you also have to dig under the rootball or stump directly. You can also use water here, to wash away the excess soil around the roots. (This will make it a two day project since you now have to wait untill the water is absorbed by the soil).
  3. Using a shovel, lever the stump from one side to another to loosen the ground from its root ball. This won’t completely uproot it, but it will loosen the root ball from the soil.
  4. Slant the stump in one direction and start pulling it. Sometimes this step might require you to dig deeper or ask another person for help.
  5. If the tree was on the larger side, you can use an ax to cut through the bigger roots. Once the main roots have been cut throug, the stump should come out fairly easily.
  6. Once the stump is uprooted, fill the hole with the soil you dug up. You might need some extra soil to cover up the hole completely, otherwise there will be a slight groove where the tree origianlly grew.

How to Get Rid of a Saplings?

If you want to remove a small sapling from your backyard, the easiest method would be to simply uproot it from the ground and treat the surrounding soil with a herbicide.

Alternatively, if you are trying to get rid of sapling invasion, you can use herbicides like Roundup to treat the saplings.

The herbicide should be enough to control the growth of a few small trees. Other than that, you can always mow the lawn in that area or just mow it more often.


The best method for removing a small tree is to cut it down to a stump and to uproot it from the ground. It is recommended to treat the stump with a herbicide like Tordon to make sure the tree does not grow back. This will ensure that the entire root system of the given tree is completely removed.

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