Q: I recently had four 15-year-old Bradford pear trees removed from my front lawn because they were encroaching on the utility lines and I had already had two to die. Prior to having them removed, one tree had sprouts all in the lawn around the tree. Since I’ve had the other trees removed, they are also beginning to sprout everywhere. I have not had the stumps removed yet. I put rock salt on the stumps immediately after having the trees removed, but this doesn’t seem to have helped. How can I stop this unsightly, annoying problem and not kill all the grass or dig up my lawn?
A: First, let me congratulate you on the decision to cut down your Bradford pears. If it were up to me, all homeowners in America would be armed with chain saws and sent out to hunt for these abominations. But, as you have discovered, just cutting them down isn’t enough to kill them. The rootstock, which has more lives than Regis Philbin, sprouts wherever roots have been cut. Rock salt is not a good solution. Here’s what to do.
1. Make a fresh cut atop every stump until you see live wood. Then paint the surface according to label directions with a herbicide called triclopyr. You’ll find this in products called Brush Killer and Brush-B-Gon.
2. If you have suckers sprouting from the roots, let them grow until they’re a couple of feet high. Then mix up a solution of triclopyr according to label directions, fill an empty milk jug with it, cut the tip off of a sprout, and push the sprout through the jug’s spout into the solution. Let it sit in place for 48 hours. The chemical will be drawn down to the roots and kill them.