I just had a couple of old trees removed from my backyard and we decided to leave the stumps since a) we thought they'd be an interesting thing to have in the garden and b) because it would have cost $thousands more to grind them up and haul all the debris away and level the lawn. So our plan is to hollow out the middle of the stump and plant stuff in there in the spring.

One of the stumps was rotten all the way to ground level anyway so is essentially already hollowed out (thanks nature!) in fact, it might be too far gone even for the planter idea. The other, however, is in pretty good shape (there are a couple of small, dark soft spots which I'm not sure if it's insects or just rot) and is quite large (probably around 2 - 3 feet across). I started out drilling a line of holes all around the perimeter of what I want to remove, about 2-3 inches from the edge. Then I (mostly) connected them up by carving around with my chainsaw. Then I cut some channels with the chainsaw from roughly the center out to the perimeter. Then I just went wild with some random cuts crisscross until I got too tired to keep going. None of my channels are all that deep however, maybe only a few inches at the deepest. My chainsaw is a small, electric model.

My plan (and hope) is to leave it over the winter and hope that the rain and ice get in there and soften up the wood enough that it'll be easier to carve out during the spring. My questions are, is there anything else I could (or should) be doing to move this along? I know some people use fire, but that seems a bit risky, I don't want to burn the entire thing. Also chemicals (Epsom salt seems a popular choice) I'm tempted to try. My other question is that I obviously don't want to rot out the outer part that will become the "walls" of the planter, so is there anything I can do speed up the rot at the center, without rotting out the outside too much (obviously everything will rot eventually, that's inevitable).

  • I pile manure on them. It works very well. gardening.stackexchange.com/a/22530/6806 A high-nitrogen fertilizer would offer some of the same benfits, if you then piled shredded leaves or peat mos on top to keep it moist. The manure does both in one step.
    – Ecnerwal
    Nov 14, 2022 at 14:43
  • With the indent you have add some charcoal and have a few BBQs. That should (not guaranteed) have it burn from the center out and top down.
    – Gil
    Nov 14, 2022 at 18:18
  • 1
    use the epson salt in the direct center this winter, then a blowtorch in the spring to carve out the rest; hose down when done. If you have a gas pressure washer, you might be able to excavate with it, depending on the wood condition and washer power.
    – dandavis
    Nov 14, 2022 at 20:26

2 Answers 2


If you are comfortable with using a chainsaw could rent a gas power one to cut the wood into small squares in the centre.

A hammer and chisel/ply bar to knock out the small squares of wood.

After the wood is removed, would paint/stain all remaining wood to protect it from rotting faster, might get a few extra years from it.

  • A lick of paint around the inside of the outer edge (when I eventually get that far) sounds like a great and easy step. I think I'll try that. Thanks. Nov 14, 2022 at 14:56

Your best bet is continue with your chain saw and remove all the wood you want nature to rot. ( nature does not know your plans and will rot everything) Then use a substance to prevent rot on the wood you wish to keep, like Stop Rot or Copper coat. You do have to know that anything is temporary and nature will take what she wants eventually, but the planting idea is cool and should look great.

  • I just looked up Stop Rot (fascoepoxies.com/Fasco-99-Stop-Rot-Epoxy.html). Looks promising. They don't give a very clear indication of how far kit will go, it would be a little pricey if I had to buy multiple sets. Thanks for the suggestion. Nov 14, 2022 at 15:02
  • 1
    Check out the Copper Coat from Rustoleum
    – RMDman
    Nov 14, 2022 at 15:07

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