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Replace conifers with fruit trees?

We have two conifers (about 20 ft tall) that we'd like to cut down and plant 2 or 3 fruit trees instead (maybe apple, plum, cherry).  Problem is we can't get any heavy machinery to that part of the garden as it's accessed by steps.

I've never tried to remove a tree (roots and all) before. Any idea what I'm letting myself in for?

Also, if I'm planting a fruit tree where a conifer used to be, do I have to do anything particular to prepare the soil? Is it even a good idea to do this?


  • waterbuttswaterbutts Posts: 1,214

    Are you planning to do it single-handed or do you have a friend to help?  It is much easier with two people. You need a pruning saw or a bow saw, a ladder, an axe and a rope.

    Prop the ladder against the tree trunk and tie it securely to the tree. Climb the ladder to a decent height and begin to saw off all the side branches. Do as many of them as you can reach, moving the ladder if necessary, until you have the least amount of weight at the top of the tree that is possible. Cut a V shape in the highest point of the trunk on the side that you want the tree to fall. Move the ladder and cut the tree in a straight line on the other side. Let the top of the tree fall and saw it into bits to move it. Repeat the V cut and straight cut, moving down the trunk. Tie the rope to the trunk if you think there is a risk of it falling in the wrong direction. A friend at the other end of the rope can help to guide it down. When you have 4 feet of trunk left staning, stop cutting the trunk and start on the roots. The trunk acts as a lever and helps a lot to rock the roots loose.

    Dig a channel round the tree, avout 3 or 4 feet away from the trunk. when you meet a root, cut it with the axe or saw it with the saw. Conifer roots are not deep. Use the trunk to help you find them by rocking it when you can.

    The soil will be dry and impoverished and you will need to add a lot of manure and compost. Things will grow well on the site once that is done.

    It is hard work but it is do-able and very rewarding.

  • Zoomer44Zoomer44 Posts: 3,212

    I'ts hard workimage.

    I cut down two conifers as tall as the house some years ago. You'll need to cut the tree down first but leave enough of the stump for leverage to loosen the roots when pulling it up, at least 3ft of stump.

    I cut all the branches off a few at a time into managable sizes. The roots go deep and are spread out so expect to dig a hole around the bottom of the tree at least two foot from the stump all the way round. It seems alot but makes it easy when you try to get the stump and roots out. If you can dig a bigger hole do so.  

    Then dig down to uncover as much of the roots as you can. A fork will help loosen the soil and a spade to get the soil out of the hole but I took to using a hand trowel to get at the roots lower down. You'll still find some thick roots, use the stump as a level to rock the remaining plant which will help to loosen the roots further. Any thick roots can be cut with a saw close to the rim of the hole.

    The more of the roots you can dig out the better the ground will be for,planting anything new.    

    The ground is likely to be very dry where the conifers grew and so digging in a lot of well rotted manure will give new plants a good start. I'm sure another poster can help with advise about planting fruit tree's.     

    Good luckimage


  • chickychicky SurreyPosts: 9,703

    To add to this advice, there was a thread about removing conifers a couple of days ago - I will bump  it up the forum list for you Blueboots

    We did not inherit the earth from our grandparents.  We’re borrowing it from our children.
  • gerrykgerryk Posts: 24

    if you have never cut down a large tree before start with side branches cut as much as you can then go as high as you can and then cut in sections untill you get to the stump then happy diggng

  • BluebootsBlueboots Posts: 100

    Thank you all!  I didn't think of leaving a decent amount of stump to act as leverage. I imagined cutting it at the base. To be honest I didn't really know what was involved and wondered if you could get the roots out without a stump grinder (whatever that is). I'm going to print out the thread so I have all the advice to hand. There will be two of us, I'll be doing it with my husband.

    The compost angle is covered. We inherited a largish compost heap when we bought the house a cuple of years ago - and it's in the wrong place. We'll use it up on the site of the conifers before we plant fruit trees. There's a nearby farm where we can get manure.

    If we take out the conifers soon do you think we should plant fruit trees in the autumn or wait till after winter?

    I'll take before, during and after pictures when we do it and post them.

  • waterbuttswaterbutts Posts: 1,214

    If you get all the roots out and have enough strength left to dig the manure in and still feel able to plant a tree on the spot , then good on you, dig away!image

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