An unwanted bush is quickly removed from the ground, after all, it is not a tree. Anyone who thinks like that and starts digging out haphazardly will soon be very surprised. Often there are more roots than the visible bush would suggest. And they reach deeper than your own spade. But giving up is not an option for a gardener, what is the alternative?

Three possible methods

Shrubs can be removed using three different methods:

  • by excavating
  • by pulling it out
  • with chemicals

Since chemicals are based on the toxic glyphosate, removal using this method is neither recommended nor further described here. Even if this controversial remedy is still permitted in commercial agriculture, it has no business in a private garden.

Tip: handsome shrubs are far too good to throw away. Maybe another gardener is interested and would even do the digging. It’s that easy! Just advertise somewhere for free and wait.

Optimal time to dig up

Sometimes a bush has to give way immediately and cannot be delayed. But whenever this action allows time, the following points should be taken into account:

  • watch out for nesting birds when removing
  • Autumn and winter are ideal times
  • do not dig for rainfall
  • Moist earth makes digging difficult
  • it gets stuck on the tool

Plan enough time so that the digging of the bushes does not have to be canceled unplanned.

Helpful tool

Mere muscle strength is never enough to remove mature shrubs and their roots from the garden soil. At least one spade is necessary for this, but other garden tools can also be valuable. Depending on how deep, how accessible, how strong and how numerous the roots are, not all tools are necessarily required for removal. However, it is advisable to have them on hand just in case, because nobody knows what challenge is really waiting underground. Have the following tools ready:

  • a spade
  • a sharp pair of secateurs
  • possibly a large loppers
  • a pickaxe
  • a handsaw
  • possibly an electric saw

The right clothing

Removing the roots is a filthy affair that can ruin the most beautiful outfit. In addition, there is a risk of injury from sharp twigs and the like during this activity. To protect your arms and legs from scratches, you should wear long-sleeved outerwear and long pants.

Protective gloves are a natural companion for the hands in this type of gardening, and wellington boots protect the feet. Anyone who still has protective goggles on hand is optimally equipped to remove unwanted bushes. In the case of “impetuous” digging, a part of the root can sometimes fly through the air.

The first step: cut away branches

Branches are not only easy to reach for secateurs, they also get in the way during excavation work. That’s why you have to remove them first. Thin twigs can easily be removed with sharp secateurs. For larger branches, lever pruning shears are suitable, while thick branches require a saw.

After you have cut off all the branches, you should move them to another place so that they do not interfere with digging out the root parts.

Branches of healthy shrubs can be shredded and put on the compost heap in smaller quantities. Some of the shredded material can also be scattered under other shrubs and trees, where it will rot over time.

Sick branches do not belong on the garden compost, but at the local green collection point. In professional composting, higher temperatures prevail, which kill the pathogens.

Important: Do not remove the trunk yet!

Large shrubs have a thick trunk that should be spared from the saw at first. It can be very helpful when you are still working with the underground parts of the plant. As soon as these are loosened a little, the branch can be moved back and forth and used as a kind of lever. The force exerted on the roots is greater and they are more easily released from their solid earth clutches.

Dig up the roots

Before the root balls of the bushes can be easily pulled from the depths, they must first be fully or partially exposed or the earth loosened.

  • a spade is good for this
  • A pickaxe is helpful if the roots are close together
  • Dig a trench around the roots of the bushes
  • In this way, expose the root parts piece by piece
  • If possible, cut through thick chunks with a spade
  • push the remaining trunk in all directions
  • that puts additional pressure

It is dug and pressed until the root ball can finally be easily pulled out of the earth. It doesn’t matter if a few thin roots remain in the earth. They will not sprout again, but will rot completely over time. However, they can also be dug up immediately if a newly planned planting requires it.

Pay attention to lines
Very large bushes develop correspondingly large roots that can reach far into the depths. If these are close to a building, there is a risk that underground pipes will be damaged when they are excavated. The responsible utilities will know whether such lines are in the vicinity and are sure to be ready to provide information.

Pull out the entire root ball

After a large part of the above-ground parts, except for a stump, has been removed, the remaining root ball can then be pulled out of the earth with great force. It helps if the earth around it is loosened up a little.

  • attach a strong chain well to the stump
  • maybe a large, exposed root
  • attach to a towing vehicle

If the root ball cannot be pulled out easily, the soil must be loosened further with the spade and the roots more exposed.

Alternative: let the roots stand

If the above-ground parts of the shrubs are removed, the stumps are allowed to remain in the ground. It will take some time, but at some point they will also be completely decomposed. If removing the roots is not a necessity, this is a convenient solution. The above-ground parts should be cut as close to the ground as humanly possible. If new shoots grow in the following year, they are simply removed with secateurs.

The subterranean parts of a shrub are strongly attached to the soil and usually more developed than assumed from the outside. When shrubs have to move, removing their roots is an enormous challenge. But with a little time, a lot of muscle power and a few helpful tools, this task can also be mastered.

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