10 Different Ways To Get Rid Of Your Oak Tree (Removal Tips)

Tire swing on oak tree

Unfortunately, trees can become severely damaged or sick and require removal. Sometimes you have to get rid of your tree, as sad as that may be. Thankfully, there are many methods you can use if you need to remove an oak tree. 

When you have to get rid of an oak tree, your best bet is to cut it down. You can also get rid of your oak tree by using:

  1. Rock Salt
  2. Vinegar
  3. Girdling
  4. Copper Nails
  5. Herbicides

When your oak tree gets damaged beyond repair, do not fret about what to do! I’ve got you covered with a list of the top five methods to get rid of oak trees. Let’s dive in.

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Using Natural Methods To Get Rid Of Your Oak Tree

Now, if you’re like me you probably like using chemicals as little as possible and prefer natural methods. After all, your oak tree has had a great lifespan and probably done some good for you over the years.

Thankfully, you can definitely use at home herbicides to get rid of your oak tree. They may not be as effective as man-made chemical solutions, but they still get the job done if used liberally. 

1. Rock Salt 

A handful of rock salt on the table

Salt is a natural way to get rid of an oak tree because it absorbs the moisture from the ground your tree would usually use and it prevents potassium and magnesium from entering the oak tree. You can use Epsom or rock salt. 

Keep in mind that salt will stay in your soil until enough water has leached it out. This process can take years if the only water comes from rain. You can speed up the soil’s regeneration by soaking the soil every day with water. 

Oak trees can also pull it up into their roots and reach toxic levels, as well as speed up the process of a stump’s decay. However, it takes longer for an oak to be get rid ofed by salt than it does by chemical herbicides. 

Side note, if roots have overtaken your pipes, you can pour a little dissolved rock salt down drains to get rid of them.

Smaller oaks will die much quicker and with a lot less salt than larger trees. Therefore, I recommend only using this method to get rid of small oak trees, but you can still use it for larger oaks. 

For smaller oaks, pour a solution of 2 cups water to 1 cup salt around the area liberally. Keep in mind this will get rid of off any grass or vegetation next to the tree.

For larger oaks, drill holes into exposed roots and cover with the salt mixture. Pour the salt mixture over the area as well. 

After salting the area around the tree, put some mulch over the soil and water it deeply every few days. Exposed roots should have at least 6 inches of mulch above it. This will speed up the process of get rid ofing your oak.

2. Vinegar 

You can also use vinegar to get rid of your oak tree. Spraying undiluted white vinegar on the leaves of the oak will prevent them from photosynthesizing and eventually get rid of them. Get rid ofing the leaves is not enough to get rid of the whole tree, but it speeds up the process. 

Vinegar works because it alters the pH level of the soil, which makes it unsuitable for oak trees. It is a contact herbicide that will get rid of any plant that it saturates. 

To destroy the oak tree’s roots, drill holes into them and pour the vinegar into the holes. You can also soak the area where roots are exposed. 

It will require a lot to get rid of a large tree, but you can do it. 

Remember to mulch your tree after treating it with salt or vinegar so the roots do not get enough air, get rid ofing the oak tree quicker.

You can read more about using vinegar to get rid of tree roots here.

3. Girdling Or Ring Barking Gets Rid Of Oak Trees

Girdling trees in the forest

Girdling has long been the traditional way of felling a tree without actually cutting it down. It is very effective, low-cost, and much less work than felling the tree with a chainsaw. 

To girdle your oak tree, cut a ring around the trunk of the tree down to the cambium layer. This keeps the conducting cells from producing branches and leaves above the cut. It is important to cut the ring below any branches so you can get rid of every piece of the tree. 

You can do this using a chainsaw, scorp, axe, chisel, flat pry-bar, or a special girdling tool with a knife on the end of it to strip a tree down to the cambium layer in a single rotation. A scorp is a wood-carving tool you can use to cut into the tree as well.  

A girdling tool like the Zenport GK03 Girdling Knife is a perfect example of the proper tool. It has a stainless steel blade for ease of use and a polished wooden handle for comfort.

When using a chainsaw, make two cuts into the tree about three inches across from each other and then peel off the layers with a chisel or other similar tool.  

You can do the same thing with an axe. Make two cuts several inches apart from each other, and then swing the axe in downward strokes to shed the layers off the tree. 

The best time of the year to girdle your oak tree is in the spring and summer. This is because the tree is most vulnerable after they have used their springtime growing energy up.  

It will take a couple of years for girdling to get rid of the tree, but you can speed up the process by applying herbicide to the wound you created in the tree. 

This option is best for trees in the woods of your yard and far away from any structures or clearings. You do not want a ticking time bomb on your hands waiting for the tree to fall if it is too close to your house.

4. Copper Nails Can Rid You Of Your Oak Tree

Another easy way to get rid of an oak tree is to use copper nails. If you just nail one into the tree, it will not get rid of it unless it is a sapling. When you overwhelm a larger tree with multiple nails, then you will see results.

When copper oxidizes, it becomes toxic for trees and makes sure the growing process of your tree stops and then destroys growth cells. Start by nailing copper nails in a ring around the lower part of the trunk. They should be half an inch apart.

Point the nails downward when you nail them in. The deeper the copper is into the trunk, the faster your tree will die.  

When your oak tree dies, make sure to remove the copper nails.

5. Cut Your Oak Tree Down

A lot of trees, including oak trees, do not grow back after they are cut down to a stump. Their root systems do not regenerate after such a blow! 

If you decide to cut it down, wear the proper safety gear, including safety glasses, gloves, helmet, Kevlar chaps, face shield, and earmuffs. These things will make your felling process much safer. 

Many recommend using a felling wedge to begin the felling of the oak tree, which keeps your chainsaw from being pinched. You can place it in a tree by cutting a notch pointing toward the direction you want your tree to fall. 

If you need a felling wedge, take a look at the Oregon 23565 Felling Wedge which comes highly regarded.

Begin the cut until it will fit the wedge, then insert it. Cut another notch 4-6 inches away from the first notch and hammer in another wedge. 

Alternate between felling the tree with your chainsaw and pounding in wedges. Sometimes you should use more than one wedge on top of the other to make it thick enough to be inserted into the tree. 

Continue this process until your tree has fallen. Success! At this point, you will have just the stump of the tree. The oak will eventually die. 

Because this process is time-consuming and potentially dangerous, I highly suggest contacting a professional to cut down your tree for you. 

Using Herbicides To Get Rid Of Your Oak Tree

There are several herbicides you can use to jumpstart the dying process of your oak tree. We will look at six different ways you can apply herbicides to your tree and our most recommended product soon. 

Herbicides use chemicals like dicamba, imazapyr, picloram, glyphosphate, and triclopyr to get rid of trees (and other foliage). Always use proper safety equipment when handling them and read all product information.

The most popular type of herbicide professionals use for get rid ofing a tree is Tordon. The active ingredient in Tordon is picloram, and it is non-toxic to humans and animals like honeybees, mammals, and birds.

The Dow AgroSciences RTU548 Tordon RTU Herbicide is a highly regarded choice for personal use. It includes a blue dye to make use easier to visualize and control. It is also a no-freeze formula, so you can use it any time of year.

Keep in mind these chemicals are damaging to the surrounding area, so the application must be very precise. Make sure there are no water sources nearby because rain runoff could contaminate them. Check the area around you and make yourself aware of your state’s regulations for using herbicides.

We recommend using a professional tree company to apply herbicide and help you with the process of get rid ofing your oak tree because they will do the most effective job! 

Ways To Apply Herbicide To Get Rid Of Oak Trees

Now, the tordon method above is used in different fashions and in some cases, used on the actual wood of the tree underneath the exposed bark. This is essentially the skin of the tree. For other herbicides, they can generally applied in the different methods we’ll describe below.

It’s important to note that no matter what we say here, you should ALWAYS follow whatever herbicide product you have and their directions for use.

By the way, if you’d like more justification for why you should remove your oak tree, take a look at our guide on how oak trees cause damage here.

1. Soil Application 

When you apply herbicide to the soil, your tree will begin to die. This happens when the chemicals get absorbed into the tree’s roots and end up within the tree itself. This will get rid of your tree quickly. 

Remember to water your tree thoroughly when you apply herbicide to the soil because it speeds up the process. Otherwise, you will have to wait until it rains for the roots to drink up the herbicide.  

If you decide to use this method, make sure there are few or no trees around your oak. Roots will intertwine if close enough, so damaging the roots of the oak will ultimately damage the roots of any trees near it. 

2. Foliar Application 

With this method, spray the herbicide onto the leaves of your tree. This method is more effective on smaller trees, which is something to keep in mind when deciding what herbicide application method is best for get rid ofing your oak. 

Foliar application will work best for speeding up the process of dying instead of get rid ofing the tree from the inside, which works much faster.

If you are using this application, you may need equipment to reach the tallest leaves of your tree. This method is easier if you are using a sprayer backpack. Therefore, we suggest contacting a professional to apply herbicide to your tree, especially when using foliar application. 

You will get the best results if you use certain chemicals at certain times of the year. For auxin-type herbicide, apply it during the spring when leaves first appear. Enzyme-inhibiting and popular herbicides like Roundup are best used in late summer or fall, right before the leaves change colors.  

3. Basal Bark 

Basal bark application is generally used with a low-pressure backpack sprayer aimed at the lower 12-15 inches of the tree stem. 

Wet the stem completely, or else it will not be as effective. You should also spray any root collars or exposed roots. Finally, soak the bark, beginning at the bottom and going up one foot. 

The best time to apply the herbicide is when the trees are dormant and there are no leaves, as it will make it much easier for you to spray the stems and bark directly. Applying it to leaves is not very effective, so avoid it to save more product. 

4. Tree Injection 

You can inject herbicide into the oak tree to make the process go much faster than the foliar method. It applies the chemical directly into the tree’s living tissue, in either liquid or pellet form. Tree injectors are 4–5-foot tubes with a pump and a 1.5 to 2-inch knife on the other end. 

Liquid injectors are applied by cutting a slit into the tree and pumping it into the slit. However, pellet injectors are shoved into the tree by a head on the tube. 

Avoid using tree injectors during spring because this is when there is a heavy amount of sap flowing upwards in the tree. The sap will slow down the herbicide’s absorption.   

How Do I Get Rid Of An Oak Tree Stump? 

A stump among autumn leaves and grass. Top view of the rings and the cracks on it

There are multiple methods to get rid of or speed up the decaying process of oak tree stumps that range from using chemicals to stump grinders. Let’s look at them below!

1. Use Chemicals 

The best way is to use chemicals, like the VPG Fertilome Stump Killer. This is a simple process, and it only takes a few steps. Drill multiple holes in the stump and then pour the liquid into the holes.  

You should pour the chemical into every hole and along the sides of the stump. After this, seal the stump with a tarp to lock in moisture. This will speed up the decaying power of the get rid ofing solution. 

2. Burn It 

Another way to get rid of the stump is to burn it! Place firewood on top of the stump and light it. Keep close watch over the fire as it burns the stump. Break up any remaining pieces or roots that are exposed.

It may help to drill 6-8 holes into the stump and pour some diesel fuel into the stump to speed up the process and make sure that the stump catches fire.

3. Hire A Professional 

You can also hire an arborist to grind down the stump for you. They will use one of two methods: stump grinding or stump removal. You can do these methods yourself, but they are very hard and time-consuming, so leave it to the experts. 

When they grind down the stump, they use a rotating blade that rips into the tree stump and cuts it up into little pieces, which is the fastest way to remove it. One downside of this method is it does not provide a very good growing area.

After they have ground it down, it does not leave a lot of room for soil. However, the stump will be completely removed.

Stump removal is a very hard process that requires you to pull out the entire stump and remove the roots. It is extremely time-consuming, but it comes with an upside. Once the tree is gone, you have free space to do whatever you want with the area.

A professional can also help you decide on what to do with the rest of your fallen oak tree.

How Do I Know If My Oak Tree Is Dying? 

If one of the methods discussed above works for you and the tree is dying, you can tell by the following symptoms your oak tree will exhibit:

  • If you use a method other than herbicides, salt, or vinegar, then you will see fungi around the base of your tree, indicating decay. 
  • Bark has begun to shed off of the tree and sap has oozed out of it. This is a sure sign that your oak is dying.
  • Dieback has occurred. This is when the upper branches of the tree have died off and are now sticking above the crown of the tree. It’s a definite sign that the root system is in trouble.
  • The branches easily fall off and have begun to scatter on the ground in great numbers.
  • Leaves have turned brown out of season and fall off. Very few of them are healthy.
  • The cambium layer is now brown instead of green. You can check this by removing a small strip of bark to reveal the cambium layer. 

If one or more of these things happens, you succeeded! Your next step is getting rid of the stump if you cut down your oak tree. If you are using another method, you can expect your tree to die in one year or more.

You can also read our guide that goes more in-depth on what’s wrong with your oak tree here.

That’s All We’ve Got!

If you are thinking about planting an oak in your yard, head on over to our article Should You Plant An Oak Tree in Your Backyard? Pros & Cons to figure out if it is the best choice for your property!

I hope this article has helped you learn more about the various methods of get rid ofing an oak tree and which one of them works best for you. 

Even though there are many ways to get rid of an oak on your own, I highly suggest contacting a professional arborist. They will consult with you about the ways you should get rid of your oak tree without the risk of damaging plants surrounding the tree or structures nearby the tree’s felling zone.

That’s all for now! 

References 

De Schepper, Veerle, et al. “Detailed analysis of double girdling effects on stem diameter variations and sap flow in young oak trees.” Environmental and Experimental Botany 68.2 (2010): 149-156.

Feucht, James R. “Herbicide injuries to trees-symptoms and solutions.” Journal of Arboriculture 14.9 (1988): 215-219. 

Szczepkowski, Andrzej, and Danuta Nicewicz. “The content of heavy metals in the wood of healthy and dying oak trees (Quercus robur L., Q. petraea (Matt.) Liebl.).” Acta Sci. Pol. Silv., Colendar. Rat. Ind. Lignar 7.4 (2008): 55-65. 

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