How to completely remove aspen tree and all shoots
What is the best way to completely remove an aspen tree and all of it's 500,000 shoots? It's located in a small city yard and the problem is shared with my neighbors. Should we : 1)girdle the tree for a year first? Then remove and grind the stump? 2) Should we cut the tree and apply herbicide to the outside rim of the stump, wait 30 days, and then grind the stump and roots out? Or 3) just cut and grind and keep hacking away at the shoots until one of us finally dies ?
Denver County Colorado
Unfortunately there is no easy fix for removing aspen trees, roots and sprouts. Aspen trees have a great ability to sprout profusely from their root systems, thereby producing a whole stand of trees from a single "parent" tree. This is a great survival trait to have and it has allowed aspen trees to recover from forest fires and re-populate large areas quickly. This isn't so great for the homeowner who wants only one or a few aspen trees and a yard with grass.
For an aspen tree I would not bother with girdling the tree because it's an extra step that will not do much to prevent the roots from continuing to have a life of their own. There is really no way to prevent the roots from sprouting all over your yard. It would probably be easiest to cut the tree down, immediately applying a product with triclopyr (brush killer) to the stump. Products with this chemical are available at many garden centers. Then spray with a product containing glyphosate (like Roundup or the equivalent). Wait for several weeks and grind or chop the stump out.
There will no doubt be sprouts fairly soon as the tree attempts to repopulate the area with more trees. You will probably continue to have sprouts for several years and it is best to chop each new sprout out as soon as you see it. This can be done easily with a shovel. Then apply glyphosate to each freshly cut surface as soon as the spout is cut out. Use caution when spraying with or applying glyphosate as it is an herbicide that will kill anything it comes in contact with. If you use a spray, it is advisable to spray early in the morning when there is no breeze, thereby preventing unintended drift.
The larger, more unsightly roots can be cut out or they can be allowed to decompose. Decomposition will take time, of course. If you allow the surface roots to decompose you may see mushrooms from time to time feeding on the decaying wood. There is no chemical to treat them but they can be easily removed with a shovel.
I think your perseverance will pay off after several years.