How to Level The Ground After Tree Stump Removal

There are several reasons you may decide to remove a tree from your yard. Weakness from disease, old age, or even a landscaping decision may leave you with a wide hole in your ground and lots of sawdust and wood chips. You need to remove as much of this leftover wood material as possible to repair the ground in that area.

The hole can’t just be filled in with soil because any remaining wood from sawdust, chips, or roots will decompose in the ground. This can make it challenging, or not possible, for grass to grow in that area for several years, depending on the condition of the soil. If you plan ahead, you can take the proper steps that will make for a seamless transition from tree to lawn.

Why You Should Clean Up After Stump Removal

When trees are removed from the ground, there will be a lot of sawdust and mulch, and potentially fragments of tree roots, remaining in the space where the tree had been. If these wood scraps remain in the soil, they will decompose. The bacteria that decomposes the wood consume nitrogen as food, absorbing the nutrient from the surrounding soil.

Clean Up After Stump Removal

Not only does decomposition absorb nitrogen, but it also creates a heat source. If you’re trying to grow grass above this decomposing tree material, the soil will be too warm and inhospitable for growth. For the same reason, your existing lawn won’t spread to fill in the empty space.

When the sawdust, wood chips, and all tree remnants are removed from the soil, the grass won’t compete with the decomposers for nutrients.

How To Remove Wood Chips From Soil

The best way to remove tree remnants is with a shovel, a sifter, and a wheelbarrow. It’s best to do this right away, so it doesn’t settle into the ground, especially by rain. Water will sink the material and solidify it, making it much more difficult to remove.

The tree removal and woodchipper equipment will compact the ground under them, so use a rake to loosen the soil and rake up solids as you do so. Using the sifter above the wheelbarrow, you can shovel soil to remove the larger pieces of wood and put them back in. However, if there is a lot of sawdust, don’t worry about saving the soil; that can be replaced. 

The more wood material you get out of the ground, the better your grass will grow. It can take several years for the organic material to completely decompose if left in, depending on the amount that remains.

How To Fill A Hole After Stump Grinding And What To Use

How To Fill A Hole After Stump Grinding

The ground cavity remaining after removing a tree stump will usually be 2 to 3 feet deep and between 5 and 15 feet wide, depending on the size of the tree. The spread of the roots will be about the same as the diameter of the crown of the tree. This space will need to be filled in with new soil after as much of the tree scrap material has been removed as is possible.

You can fill the soil with a variety of materials to repair the soil and level the area. This can include:

  • Fresh topsoil – New dirt that doesn’t have any pieces of wood in it is key to repairing the area. This will prepare the soil with the organic material and nutrients your grass will need to grow in firmly, healthy, and lush.
  • Grass clippings and compost – Mixing in grass clippings or compost will fortify the ground with nitrogen, which will feed any decomposition that does occur by bacteria, worms, and other decomposers without totally depleting the soil. It will also provide nutrients for any new grass growth.
  • Fertilizer – Using a starter fertilizer, lime, or another soil conditioner will add nutrients for any unavoidable decomposition, but it will also support the establishment of your grass in the tree’s old location by making available the nutrients your grass will need to thrive.
  • Drainage amendments – Adding sand and/or clay to your soil as you refill a ground cavity may be important if the rest of your yard has sandy or loamy soil with grass that needs good drainage or moisture retention.

Use a tamper as you apply layers of soil and organic material, and continue over several turns until the topsoil is firm and even with the surrounding ground.

Be sure not to compact the soil so much that there is no air in it since aerated ground is important for new grass roots to establish themselves. A rake or a leveler to finish the top will get your surface level even for new grass to grow.

How Long Does It Take For The Ground To Settle After Tree Removal?

If you tamper the soil as you backfill the ground, you can avoid much soil settling at all following your tree removal. Rain will contribute to the soil settling, and you may want to wait a couple of weeks to be sure the ground is even to assess whether it will sink and need more soil or whether you can proceed to plant grass seed.

Growing Grass On Ground Where A Tree Used To Be

How To Fill A Hole After Stump Grinding

Once your wood chips are removed, the ground is filled in and leveled; you can apply grass seeds or sod. While seeds should grow if the soil is in good enough condition, sod has the advantage of already having a hearty root system to establish the new grass in the newly refilled ground.