Twofer Magrufelis' Old Timey Home Renovatin' Jamboree

How to Remove a Juniper Bush: Step by Step Instructions

Wait, why would I want to remove my juniper bushes? They add a lush feeling to the yard. Need security? They’re nature’s answer to razor wire. Junipers are like huge fishing nets, trawling the wind for trash, bits of leaves and random animal carcasses. Plus, they are a veritable archaeological site for years of neighborhood detritus. I love my yellow-brown, cobweb-ridden juniper bushes. I am an 85 year-old man.

Mattock or pick-axe (note to self, Mattock would be a bad ass name for a little boy)
Chain saw or hand saw 
Pry bar
Eye protection
Chain Mail
2 cups of grain alcohol (for celebratory purposes only, or you could always go the arson route with your bushes)

Well, there’s always “Jennifer Juniper” by Donovan
It’s cetainly topical… but let’s be honest, this is not a Donovan kind of project (we’ll save that for a future idea I have about drift wood sculpture idea). Instead I’m thinking we need something more violent.

Step One: Off Damn Needles!
First, I crawled under these bastardy bushes and cut off most of the branches. I used this sweet little chain saw I borrowed from Uncle Don:
(if you don’t have an Uncle Don, I’d seriously suggest you get one).
This part of the project totally sucked balls. I looked like I had been wrestling a porcupine. Also, the stumps were at least 12 inches in diameter near the bottom making a low cut with the mini chain saw impossible. 

I hate these goddamned things.

Step Two: What The Truck?
All kinds of people told me that you can just pull a juniper stump out of the ground by putting a chain around it and hooking it to the back of a truck. Those people are a-holes.

I tried it and found that I broke through chains and came close to burning out my clutch. And all the while, the effing bush did not so much as budge. That may be because my juniper bushes are 50 plus years old and gigantic. It could also be that they have grown deep into a series of cinder block anchors that had been erected centuries earlier (seriously, see picture below). But instead, I suspect that those people who said you can rip out a juniper with a truck are secretly trying to drive me crazy (joke’s on you bitches! I was crazy before crazy was cool.).
Step Three: Give Up
What the hell am I supposed to do, dig up the stumps?
That sounds impossible and ridiculously time consuming. Oh well, I gave it a shot. How much does it cost to get the stump ground? $500?! Are you shitting me?!!
Can’t we just move?

I really, really hate these goddamned things.

Call 811 to make sure you are not going to hit a gas line or worse (ie a C.H.U.D.). They will send out people to mark your yard for water, cable, electric and gas. However- they will NOT send out anyone to mark your sewer line or sprinkler. If this is obvious to you, then you are smarter than me (not the sprinkler, I would have figured that out, but I hadn’t thought about the sewer line). I’m still in shock that I didn’t hit the line and have a geyser to sewage in my front yard. But that’s why they call me “Lucky”.
Wait, they call me “Twofer”, right?

Not to digress, but I think of 811 as the goofy younger brother of 911. When you call they say, “if you are trying t to call 911, hang up immediately and redial”. It’s like no one would ever call 811 on purpose. Sad, asthmatic, pimply, trombone-playing 811. He looks up to his buff, football-playing, crew-cut sporting older brother. I mean, 911 was totally dating a college girl when he was still in High School and now he’s like a fireman or something.

Step Five: Stumpy Joe and the Tool
I’d recommend taking the chain-saw, axe or hand saw and removing any large branches that are left to you can get to the base of the stump better. I didn’t do this right away and was constantly annoyed by the branches sticking out and poking me or getting in the way of digging. 

I used a mattock to dig a trench around the base of the stump and the pry bar to pop out little roots. 
When I hit larger roots I went to the axe.
Step Six: Shake it Up
After going around the stump one time grab the top and shake it back and forth. If it wiggles- you are almost there!

If it doesn’t wiggle, you are a failure. Get back to work.

Step Seven: Dig Deeper
As soon as I was about 6 inches down I started moving inward- using the mattock and pry bar to dig underneath the stump.
Every time I hit a large root I chopped away at it with the axe. After chopping, I used the pry bar underneath that particular root to make sure I was actually through it, and to help break that root from the ground.
After every big root I tried the wiggle test to see if I was making progress (and no, I was not making any progress).

Step Eight: Suicide
It’s been hours. It’s hot. You have been defeated by a tree of all things. I mean, if there is one thing a human being should be able to do it’s kill a damn tree. That’s practically what separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom.
If you can’t kill a tee, you ain’t no kind of man.

Step Nine: Grow A Pair
Ok, you’ve had your little breakdown. The neighborhood kids have seen you curled up in a ball, sobbing. It’s time to put in behind you. Now, let’s get out there and show this bush who’s boss!

I think the key is to try to dig underneath the stump instead of straight down. Keep working in a circle and do the wiggle test every time you cut through a root. 
After a while, the stump will give a little wiggle. At this point, I employed the service of a hobo who was skulking down the sidewalk. We took turns- one of us climbed on top of the stump and rocked it back and forth while the other used the pry bar underneath to lever the stump up. After a few minutes the beast was slain!
I payed the hobo an apple core and a piece of string for his trouble.

This is what my pry bar looked like when I was finished.

Step Eight: Drink the Blood of Your Enemy
In this case you can simply down a fifth of gin.
Congratulations, you just bested a scraggly bush.

Time You Could Have Spent Better Watching A-Team Reruns:
I had 4 bushes of varying size. It took about an hour to remove the branches from all, then anywhere from one to four hours each to get the stumps out.

Fingers Lost:
Scratches, welts and splinters. But, despite the most gratuitous use of chain saw and axe since “Freddy vs Jason”, none.

I already had the tools (and the talent), so the only cost was the 5 years it took off my life.

Future Installments:
Later, I’ll work on making some raised beds in the space where the stumps were. I was thinking of planting some nice juniper shrubs!


Trackbacks & Pingbacks


  1. * Jenny says:

    Yes, but can you build a fence?

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 8 months ago
    • * Kathleen says:

      I about fell out of my chair this was soooo funny! I am about to take on 5 large 14 year old juniper and about 10 shorter variety also 14 years old. It looks like a sea of (healthy)juniper with feet foot high tall grass growing in it! They have always been a problem but I thought the grass would stop growing after they filled in-NOT!! I have been doing a bunch of yard work and saved this for last because I am dreading this task but this post has given me the courage to do it and let me say I will drink the blood of my enemy after every night of my juniper HEEELLL! I will have to show this post to my entire family, thanks again.

      | Reply Posted 7 years, 11 months ago
  2. * Katie says:

    this is hilarious. we have an unholy trinity of juniper that takes up our entire front yard, solid so that it would kinda look like grass if you squinted and were mostly blind. It’s about 4 ft tall on a slope. Plus it’s approximately 59 years old. Plus I’m fairly certain there are brown recluse spiders mating inside. give me your honest opinion, should we just hire someone to pull them out? I’m pregnant, so the hubby isn’t getting any help from me. He has grand plans to “just hack at it” with a chainsaw. I think I will show him this post.

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 7 months ago
    • * howtwofer says:

      Call and see how much it costs. If you can find a decent price I wouldn’t bother.
      I might also suggest you leave them put until your kid is 5 or 6. Then make him take it out as punishment*!

      *warning, don’t actually give your 5 year old an axe

      | Reply Posted 8 years, 7 months ago
      • * Katie says:

        Ok so this was fun. The hubs removed about 25% of the mighty bush in about 5 hours. This does not include stumps. I found a lovely group of men on craigslist to do the rest AND remove the stumps AND haul everything away for $250. We agree, best money ever spent.
        Ps: you would not believe some of the trash that was unearthed under that thing. It was like an archeological dig.

        Posted 8 years, 6 months ago
      • * howtwofer says:

        Congrats! $250 is not bad

        Posted 8 years, 6 months ago
  3. * Charlie says:


    This was one of the first things to come up when I googled “How to remove a juniper bush.” I laughed like crazy as I read it out loud for the people in the other room to hear.

    You should write books, man.

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 7 months ago
  4. * Jenny says:

    Seriously, I command you to create a new hilarious post about the building of the One Fence to Rule Them All.

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 6 months ago
  5. So this is what I have to look forward to. Good thing my liquor cabinet is well stocked…

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 6 months ago
  6. * gail says:

    my dad suggested this for some 40 year old buford hollies (which are almost as bad as junipers) ….saw them down to the ground with a chain saw then drill several large holes into the stump and then fill the holes with sulfuric acid. make sure there is always sulfuric acid in the holes for several months. the roots and stumps will be rotted (supposedly) in a few short months. i’m going to try this on the 8 30 year bufords in front of my house.

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 4 months ago
  7. * Steve says:

    Very much enjoyed your write-up! I, too, have junipers I will be removing soon (only 7 years old). How are your juniper shrubs doing? lol

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 1 month ago
  8. * Rich says:

    Very good….

    I am going to pay someone now FOR SURE!

    Mine is also 50 years old and takes up a huge chunck of our front lawn.

    I was at the garden center today and was looking at plants to replace and could no believe that they were still selling Junipers!

    RIP Juniper!

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 1 month ago
  9. * Marc says:

    I am trying to remove 5 6′ juniper bushes and reading your article made me laugh out loud several times. Hilarious! I just cut them all down and today I ventured out with a shovel to see about digging up the roots. Suffice to say, two hours later in on line googling how to remove these frakin bushes.

    Thanks for making me laugh.

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 1 month ago

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