The Best Way to Kill Trees for More Space in Your Yard

For any backyard that needs a little TLC, chances are you have a laundry list of items to restore your backyard to its green glory. From tending to the lawn to sprucing up the garden to laying down new stonework, there are plenty of things to take care of in your yard over the spring and summer seasons. And one difficult problem is getting rid of trees in your yard. 

While keeping a tree in your backyard is great, it can often be more of a nuisance than a welcome addition to a yard. Some older trees can rot and spread fungi and moisture to surrounding plants in your yard, for instance. Other trees may grow over structures and pose a safety hazard to your home or your neighbor’s. 

Whatever the reason, if you’re looking to kill an unwanted tree for more space in your yard, we’ve got you covered. There are a few ways to get rid of the tree. Sometimes, it may be necessary to hand it over to the professionals, but if you’re looking for a cost-effective, easy solution, you can kill the tree yourself without damaging anything around it. 

Let’s break down the best way to kill trees for more space in your yard and all the options available to you as a homeowner. 

What Tools You’ll Need

If you have these tools handy, you should be able to kill an unwanted tree in your backyard. 

  • Hammer
  • Chisel
  • Handsaw
  • Epsom salt
  • Chemical herbicide spray
  • Pruning shears
  • Chainsaw
  • Axe

Remember that some bigger trees require heavier tools and will most likely need professional help. If you’re unsure you can cut down the tree yourself, it is often best to call tree removal experts. Safety first!

What Trees Are Easiest to Get Rid Of?

Young pear trees in a field

Smaller tree species are the easiest to eliminate and often require no professional help. You’ll be able to cut down a small tree yourself, and it’s also easy to kill the tree over time.

The easiest way to kill a small tree is by cutting the leaves and branches off and waiting for the tree to die out. You have effectively cut off its growth, and if you continue to cut off its leaves and branches, it will eventually halt its growth. After that, cut down the tree and remove its root system.

The older and healthier the tree is, the harder it will be to get rid of. To kill a healthy adult tree, the process may take several months to several years, depending on your method of choice. You can always opt to power saw down an adult tree, but safety precautions should always be considered when carrying out this task. 

How Do I Cut Down a Tree?

1. Girdle the Tree

An easy way to kill a tree is by girdling the trunk. To do this, cut a ring out of the bark near the bottom of the tree trunk with a hammer and chisel or a handsaw. Make sure to create a 3 to 6-inch circle of exposed wood. By creating this ring, you interrupt the sap flow between the tree roots and the rest of the tree, starving the tree of its nutrients.

Over time, the tree will die out, and you can effectively cut it much easier. This method takes anywhere from three to six months. While it takes longer than other methods, this is a chemical-free way to kill the tree. You can also use a chemical herbicide on the girdle to speed up the process. 

2. Use Epsom Salt

A natural way to kill a tree, spreading Epsom salt around the tree’s roots is an easy, low-cost method. You may already have some Epsom salt in your garden shed from past winters. Why not put it to use by spreading it around a pesky tree?

To kill the tree effectively, continually re-treat the base of the tree and its exposed roots with Epsom salt. Doing this after rain or wetting the tree with a garden hose is best. Create a damp environment for the tree, encouraging rot and cutting off its nutrients. This process can take around six months for a smaller tree and a year for larger adult trees.

3. Use Herbicide at the Tree Root

Man sprays chemicals in a garden

One of the most effective ways of killing a tree at its roots without cutting it down is by spraying all-purpose herbicides.

To do this, you’ll need to wear the proper protective equipment, like a respirator, gloves, pants, and long pants. Spray the herbicide at the tree’s root or the soil surrounding the tree. This is one of the speediest ways to kill the tree, but ensure you wear protective gear when applying herbicide to the tree root.

For smaller tree species and saplings, you can spray herbicide on their leaves and branches. After a few days, the leaves will die and fall off. Repeat this process until the target tree has withered and died. 

What Do I Do With the Tree Waste?

Sell It for Firewood

Many local businesses or people in your neighborhood are looking for cheap firewood for their fireplaces, smokers, or next camping trip. Chainsaw the trunk into smaller pieces and chop the wood into logs and kindling.

Turn It into Wood Chipping

If you can, rent out a wood chipper from a hardware store. It’s a rough job that can take some time, so keep that in mind. However, the result can leave you with tons of wood chips that can be used for other purposes, such as mulch for your garden bed or laying down a pathway in your yard.

Bring It to Your Local Waste Disposal

If you can transport the tree from your backyard, take it to your local waste disposal site. They often have a waste removal policy for trees and natural materials, such as compost. If you cannot transport the dead tree, you can schedule a waste collection pickup from your home. 

Will Vinegar Kill a Tree?

Spraying vinegar can kill a tree over time, but it is not as effective as a stronger chemical like herbicide. For smaller trees with foliage, vinegar can be an effective killing method. Put vinegar in a spray bottle and spray at the leaves and branches daily until the tree wilts and the leaves have dried and fallen off. Then it is ready to be removed from the ground. 

Can Copper Nails Kill a Tree?

You may have heard the copper nail method of killing a tree. This involves hammering copper nails into the tree trunk and waiting for the tree to die. This method won’t work for a strong adult tree, as it won’t have much effect. You could use this method for a sapling or a smaller tree, but it may take months to show any progress. The copper nail method is not backed by science and won’t effectively kill a tree. 


To kill a tree for more space in your yard, keep in mind the length of time it may take to kill the tree. A baby tree could take up to six months, but adult trees are a slower process and could take up to a few years. Depending on how soon you want the tree out of your yard, seek the proper method for you.

Herbicides are often the fastest way but pose some safety risks. On the other hand, chemical-free ways, like girdling or Epsom salts, can take much longer. Whatever method you choose, make sure you remove the tree and dispose of it correctly. 

And once you’ve cleared the unwanted trees out of your yard and made more space, get started on all the backyard projects you’ve wanted to do all these years. Maintaining a green lawn, for instance, can be easy with some aerator shoes. With all this new space comes many new possibilities!


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