Just acquired a 4-acre lot in Southern Virginia. It was recently cleared of a ton of small (roughly 6-foot-tall) pine saplings that look like they were mechanically planted. I am not entirely sure. There were as many as 10 saplings in every single square foot and they were clearly choking each other out. The saplings are gone now, and I am trying to figure out what steps to take to begin restoring the land for gardening, animals, carbon accumulation, food forest, all the permaculture/sustainability life goals. The main issue now is I have 4 acres of pointy ½ inch to 2-inch wide stumps. It is almost impossible to walk the property without tripping on a stump and goring yourself.

What is the best way to begin restoring farmland by removing thousands of ½ inch to 2 inch wide pine stumps?

  • Do you have access to any sort of machinery — like a tractor?
    – Tim
    Oct 23, 2020 at 23:14
  • A friend up the road has a subcompact Kubota. I may have to invest in one myself at some point. Nov 1, 2020 at 16:03

4 Answers 4


If you have a tractor that can drive over them a flail mower should work. If you intend to mow anything on the property it would be worth looking into a flail mower because they're very useful (and can also be used to shred fallen timber and for light brush clearing). We used to have one for the orchard and used it to reduce the debris from trimming shelter belts as well as mowing between rows ("debris" being anything up to 10cm thick, you just mow along the length a few times and then it's woodchips).


The small ones aren't too bad. Conventional rototiller will take care of them. Two inch is pushing what a rototiller can handle. If you are running 10/sq foot there won't be many 2" ones.

This is one of those "20-20 hindsight is wonderful" momemnts. It's a lot easier to remove stumps while attached to the tree.

Method 1: Use a mould board plough. (or mold board plow in the U.S.) Ideally this one will have a large heavy tractor in front of it. Were this my problem I'd want a 50 hp tractor on a 2 by 16" plough.

Now make a second path with an old fashioned potato harvester -- the kind that digs them up and leaves them on the surface. Often cheap at an auction sale. This leaves the roots on the surface of the ground.

Use a landscape rake set at an angle to gather them in windrows, then a second pass to bunch the windrows into burn piles. Burn the piles. Then reprocess the piles and gather the remnants.

Method 2: Buy a 2nd had back hoe. These are great for removing stumps. Pick it up, lay it to one side. Let dry for a week. Pick up, shake off dirt. Stack. Burn. When you're done, sell the back hoe for about what you paid for it. This is what you would need for 3" stumps.

Talk to a local forestry consultant. The forestry guys have some serious equipment for cleaning forest land prepping for the next crop of trees. May be able to hire it done for a thousand bucks an acre.


Nature will take care of them in a year or so . Next time cut closer to the ground. I have several large ( 3 ft. dia +) pine stumps around the house; they take a few years for nature to fix so I let grass grow over them. Upside for me , I also have a number of large hardwood stumps and most are presently full of chantrelle mushrooms ( they do not grow on pine). If you are in a hurry , buy some lever action lopers . They should cut 2 " dia. pine as low as you want. Lopers do not care about running into the soil like a chainsaw.

  • 1
    Reference for stump decay time. I had to look it up because they last decades here in the Great White North. Oct 26, 2020 at 1:37
  • I understand the temperature and moisture make a difference .I am in a warm area , zone 2 ( 2 years ) on the map. I drill holes and pour fertilizer in the big stumps. Oct 27, 2020 at 3:20
  • @KeithMcClary Nice link. Thanks
    – Tim
    Oct 29, 2020 at 2:22

Grind down the stumps. But that's a difficult thing and time consuming. Another is the wet method, drill holes deep in them and pour water and soil mix and high nitrogen fertilizer, cover with a tarp or black trash bag to speed up their decomposition. Last technique, fire.

  • 1
    The OP has 170,000 tiny stumps, LazyReader. Oct 26, 2020 at 1:32

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