The Q&A Archives: Destroying tree roots

Question: I have two relatively young maple trees growing within two feet of the side of my house. The roots are spreading and are causing heaving on the corner of the house and porch concrete pad. I have heard that applying copper sulfate to the stumps if I were to cut them would effectively kill the root system entirely. Are there any particular hazards to animals by using copper sulfate in this manner? How long would it take to make that area workable as a flower garden?

Answer: Maple trees are very resiliant and very capable of regenerating from the root reserves. Depending on how large these trees are you might have better success by thoroughly digging out the roots, or by having them ground down to about two feet deep or more. This would allow you to replant the area much sooner than waiting for the wooden stump and roots to rot down. You could also kill them using an herbicide containing glyphosate, be sure to read and carefully follow all of the label instructions. I would not recommend copper sulfate -- which inhibits rooting. Copper sulfate is sometimes used in sewer lines to kill tree roots but it is not currently recommended for that usage either as it then is carried in either runoff or in the biosolids in the sewer treatment system.

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