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How to Kill Trees Quickly? 4 Best Methods

man cutting tree using chain saw

Trees are large and prevalent plants that can be found almost everywhere. Many people adore trees for their size, stature, and benefits for the environment. However, sometimes there are situations in which trees become a hazard, a danger, a nuisance, or an eyesore. Sometimes you are in a position where you need to kill a tree quickly. Whether you need to kill a tree for safety reasons or remove a tree for property management purposes, there are ways to kill trees effectively, efficiently, and quickly.

Here are four of the best methods to kill trees that are fast and effective.

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The 4 Methods for Killing Trees Quickly

1. Chop Them Down

The single fastest and most effective method to kill a tree is to simply chop it down. Chopping down trees is the oldest tree killing method on this list and perhaps the oldest tree killing method in history. People have been cutting down trees for thousands of years for various reasons and doing so always results in a dead tree. For the absolute best results, you should also treat, burn, remove, or grind the remaining stump down. Some trees can sprout again from a stump if conditions are right. However, it will take years or even decades for the tree to return to its former size.

How to Do This

Before cutting down a tree, make sure you are prepared for the job ahead. You need to wear eye protection. You need to have the proper cutting tools, which usually entails a chainsaw. You need to measure the area and make the necessary preparations to ensure that the tree does not fall on anyone, anything, or any nearby dwellings. Felling trees can be extremely dangerous work that results in property damage and even death on a regular basis.

You need to know what you are doing to safely cut down a tree. If you’ve never cut down a tree before, it is suggested that you call someone who has. If you are trying to cut down a particularly large tree, one that is more than six inches in diameter or more than twelve feet tall, you should consider calling a professional to get the job done. Once a tree starts falling, there is no stopping it. Large trees can weigh thousands of pounds and can easily squish a car or house if you are not careful.

Despite the risks, once the tree is lying down, it is dead and will not grow back. Be sure to have a plan for removing the tree after you are done cutting it down, or you will trade an upright tree for a large ground obstacle.

2. Use Specific Herbicides

There are herbicides that are specifically designed to work on trees. Trees are considered woody plants, so any type of herbicide designed to quickly kill woody plants should work on trees. Not all herbicides will work on all trees. Large trees are more resistant to herbicides than small trees. Trees with trunks larger than six inches in diameter will be much harder to kill with herbicides than smaller and younger trees. It can still, however, be done.

There are two herbicides that work best for trees: triclopyr and picloram. Triclopyr is a common brush-control chemical that can be found at most local hardware stores. Triclopyr specializes in quickly killing woody plants. Picloram and its derivatives are the main ingredients in Tordon and similar herbicides. Other products that are guaranteed to have adverse effects on trees are anything that is designed to kill or break down stumps.

There are some chemicals and sprays that advertise themselves as stump killers and stump removers. These will also work to quickly kill trees even when they are not stumps. Spraying stumps is sometimes a good idea, in general, to prevent your trees from growing back after you cut them down though it will take a very long time for the tree to recover itself after being chopped down.

How to Do This

For small trees, you can simply spray the herbicides on the bark, on the base, and around the tree and wait for the tree’s health to start failing. For large trees, you might need to ensure that the herbicides get down into the vulnerable part of the tree. In order to do that, you will need to cut through the bark and get to the soft underlayer. If the tree is small enough, you can cut through the bark with a knife or ax blade.

Once you have the bark opened, you can apply the herbicide directly to the interior of the tree. For larger trees, you might need to employ the use of a drill to get a deep hole into the center of the tree. Apply the tree-killing herbicides into the holes so that they reach the heart of the tree. If you decide to put the herbicides directly into the tree, then other, more general chemicals will also work, including common herbicides like Roundup.

Image By: Ortho Weed B Gone Herbicide, Mike Mozart, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

3. Spray or Pull Up Young Trees

Before trees get too large, the quickest way to kill them is to either spray them with a plant-killing agent or simply pull them up and remove them. There are numerous mixtures that you can make at home without spending a lot of money that will effectively kill young trees. These mixtures include things like salt water, dish soap, vinegar, pepper, and other household items. Mixtures like these have the benefit of not containing any harsh chemicals or herbicides. Not everyone wants to spray their yard with heavy-duty herbicides.

How to Do This

Small trees can also be effectively removed by hand. Some trees are small enough, when they are young, to be pulled out of the ground, mowed over, weed whacked, or cut with pruning shears. The key to this method is identifying young trees as they pop up. If you can identify a young tree when it is small, it becomes far easier to dispose of it before it gets too hardy. Catching trees when they are young means you do not have to use herbicides or chainsaws to kill them quickly.

Killing young trees also ensures that they will not grow up and spread more seeds and saplings around your yard, which helps reduce the problem before it gets out of hand.

4. Ring Bark the Tree

Ring barking, or girdling, is the complete removal of bark from around the entire circumference of a tree. Ring barking will result in the death of everything above the ring. The bark helps trees transfer water and nutrients from the soil up to the top of the tree. By cutting away the bark around an entire section, you essentially cut off the flow of life-giving nutrients to other parts of the tree. You can ring bark a tree right near the base and cause the entire tree to die above it (which can be dangerous if the tree is particularly tall) or you can use girdling to kill a tree in sections by starting near the top and working your way down.

Ring barking is very effective because it guarantees the tree will die, and if you do it right, the tree will die very quickly.

Image By: Ralphs_Fotos, Pixabay

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What Kills Trees the Fastest?

Cutting down trees kills them the fastest. By cutting down a tree at the base, you remove the bulk of the mass and guarantee that a vast majority of the tree or all of it dies within minutes. Trees are extremely large, extremely old, and extremely hardy plants, and not everything can kill a tree quickly. If you’ve tried other methods and find yourself getting impatient or struggling to kill the tree, you can always revert to chopping it down. Even the best methods might not kill a tree quickly because trees are so good at surviving. The largest and oldest trees can be extremely difficult to kill, even with the most effective methods. Cutting trees down is foolproof, and it is the fastest method on this list by far.

Check Local Regulations

Before you go off and start killing trees, you need to check your local laws and regulations. Even if the tree is on your property, there might be rules governing if, when, and how it can be removed. Some trees are protected by local laws. Some trees of a certain species or a certain age need to receive a permit before they can come down. Some municipalities require you to replant new trees if you take down old trees. You do not want to run afoul of your local authorities, and you do not want to receive a ticket or citation for illegally removing a tree.

Before killing any trees, but especially trees that are particularly visible on your property, check your local laws, regulations, and ordinances to ensure that you are doing it legally.

When In Doubt Call an Arborist

If you really want to kill a tree or have it removed but are not confident in your ability to kill it with herbicides, chainsaws, or axes, call an arborist. Arborists are professionals that will be able to examine your tree give you a report on its health, its prospects, and suggest the best way to kill or remove it. If you are trying to kill a tree that you think could be dangerous or ailing, an arborist could give you ideas on how to save the tree as well. Arborists are specially trained to identify trees, determine their health, and make suggestions about how best to handle the trees based on the information they gathered.

Arborists should also know the local laws regarding tree removal and what herbicides would work best on your particular trees.

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Trees can be hard to kill, but there are a handful of methods that are guaranteed to kill them quickly. Chopping them down is the easiest and fastest method, but you can also deploy special herbicides, home remedies, your bare hands, or ring barking to get the job done. Just make sure to check the local rules before killing any trees and consider consulting an arborist before you make any decisions.

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Featured Image Credit: Andrew Angelov, Shutterstock


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