Planting near old stump not impossible - Albuquerque Journal

Planting near old stump not impossible

Tracey FitzgibbonQ. I’ve had two dead one-seed junipers removed, one in my front yard and one in my back yard. The stumps and roots remain. Can I successfully plant new trees near the stumps? – S.K., Albuquerque

A. I have to tell you, my brain went from zero to 175 mph after reading your query. So many thoughts that I needed to take a step back, do a bit of research on one-seed juniper, and then see if I can help.

First, I checked to see if junipers change the soil, making it difficult for other plants to grow. There are plants and trees that sort of “poison” the soil near them so they don’t get any competing plants growing in their space.

I didn’t find any cautionary tales about the juniper, so that is good news for you.

Next, I wondered why such a tenacious plant would die in the first place. If you helped along the death of the junipers with an application of any brush and stump killer, it might be a few years before any applied toxin dilutes enough so as not to bother any new planting close by.

Now if they just aged out, well that’s a different, and certainly, much smaller concern.

You said the roots and stumps are still there. How close are you planning to plant a tree to the leftovers?

Remember that it’s suggested the hole you dig to receive the new tree be twice as wide and just as deep as the container the tree comes in. So I think you’ll be running into roots galore if you choose to plant close to the stump.

The old roots need to go as you are digging away. Since you’ll be removing roots, there will be a smaller amount of soil in the area.

You’ll want to have extra soil mixed with fine-milled compost to take up the slack, so to speak.

OK, so you’ve pulled, tugged, cut and fought out the old roots in the planting area, and have successfully gotten the new tree planted.

My next thought is as you water and tend to the newbie, any old roots in the surrounding area will start to decompose, making the ground settle or change in elevation.

The new tree could start to lean or list as the surrounding areas settle from the old juniper roots being absorbed by the earth.

You’ll want to stay very visually involved with the tree. If the ground elevations change, your newcomer might need staking to help keep it upright while all the underground “goings-on” work themselves out. This will be a year-long commitment.

One season everything could be doing great and then, poof, one year the tree could go all cattywampus on you.

So be on guard for any oddities that could happen. Also know that the new tree won’t preform well for long if it sinks much, either.

At the very bottom of most tree trunks there is a barely visible flare to the trunk that needs to be kept just barely above ground level. I liken that flare to a tree’s nose.

If that nose sinks below ground level, eventually getting buried, you can bet your bottom dollar the new tree will suffer, usually a slow, horrible death. So stay vigilant.

As for the stump staying, I see no reason why it can’t. You could even use it as a pedestal for a pot. If its diameter is wide enough, you could hire help to bore out a bowl shape in the stump and make a new planter, setting out colorful bedding plants each year to add even more color to your surroundings.

Remember, once you’ve successfully planted near the stump DO NOT apply any sort of stump remover on it because, as I said, it could poison the soil near the new planting.

With these thoughts I’ve covered most of my brain whirring and hope I’ve given you food for thought. Planting close to the stump will be a chore, but if you have the wherewithal to do it, go for it.

A new living tree that makes oxygen will always be a good thing.

Happy Diggin’ In, and with the onslaught of daylight saving time I just want to remind everyone that our circadian rhythms are still adjusting, so remember to take a breath, and enjoy this first full day of spring 2021.

Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or to


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