Can You Dig Out a Dead Tree on Your Own?

trimming tall tree

You want the advice of a professional arborist before deciding to remove a tree. If the tree is truly beyond saving, though, it may need to come out.

For a smaller, younger tree, you may want to attempt this on your own. How would you go about attempting this removal of dead trees in a safe and efficient manner? Here are some tips.

  • Clear the base of the tree. Pull weeds, mow the grass, and remove anything in the way. You need to be able to see what you’re doing, and excessive ground cover can block your view.
  • Dig a trench around it. You need to find the roots and scoop out the root ball. These roots may be much further out than you might think. For a little tree, have this trench be at least a foot away from the tree’s center. For a bigger one, go two feet out. This is two feet out as a radius, not diameter – two feet from the center of the trunk out to the edge of the circle. You can use a spade to tap in and look for the roots, so that you can dig below that root ball.
  • Slice through those extending roots to cut through them completely. An axe or a pickaxe can work as your tool. Protect your eyes – flying wood shards can be treacherous – and protect your feet with steel-toed boots.
  • Move the topsoil away from the base of the tree as you go. This will make it easier for you to rock the tree back and forth, and will make it easier to get under that root ball to gain leverage. Eventually you will want to tilt that tree back as the root ball dislodges from the soil.