Well, I went out and looked at the area this afternoon. The Japanese Barberry stump was 8" above ground and the soil level was a bit high there. The 2 Azalea stumps were sending up new shoots. So, I decided they had to go! That wasn't an easy decision. Azaleas send out lots of roots and I took out a barberry stump elsewhere that took hours to dig out.
But sometimes you just have to do it the "right way". I collected some tools that I recalled being most effective previously. I had my solid steel spade, an axe, a soil digger knife (basically a serrated dagger) and a "mutt". The mutt is a straight blade about 8" long and 4" wide, with a chisel point, mounted on a thick strong straight wood 5' shaft.
First, I took out the azalea stumps. Those weren't too bad, taking only 1/2 hour of digging, chopping, and prying. I was drenched in sweat, but pleased I had removed them.
When I looked at the barberry stump, I nearly cried. I REALLY tried to figure out a way to cover it and let it rot in peace. The soil around it was covered in stones, the stump was 12" wide, and I knew from the previous time that the roots are deep and thick. I sat there for 15 minutes trying to find a way not to dig it out.
It had to go, though, so I started digging away the soil around it. The first thing I hit was the original burlap from 20 years ago! That stuff is supposed to rot away. It must have been synthetic. That took a while to cut through and remove in pieces.
I dug a trench around the stump and started working my way inwards. When I found a root, I tried to chop it with the spade, but mostly had to use the axe. I tried to use the mutt, but the straight down chop of it does not equal the force applied with an axe. Each time I cut through a root (they are up to 2.5" in diameter), I pushed the steel spade under and levered it. Dont try that with a wood handled spade, it will just break.
When the stump started to move slightly, I could tell where the other large roots were and dug out more soil with the spade and digger knife. When I got a major root exposed, I went after it with the axe. More prying, more digging, more axing, more levering.
I finally got to the major straight down taproot. I couln't get at it with the axe, it was too thick and movable) for the spade. I finally went inside and sharpened the Mutt's edge on the grinder wheel. It took 15 more minutes of pounding the mutt into the taproot, but I finally felt it go right through. Yay!
There were still some minor roots holding the stump to the soil, but I was able to cut through them with the spade when I figured out where they were. Lifting the stump out of the hole was a great pleasure. I felt like I was Perseus holding the severed head of Medusa aloft!
I took the tools into the garage, went upstairs and collapsed for an hour. I lost 2 pounds doing the work. I was so dehydrated that I drank a glass of orange juice, a glass of tomato juice, and a glass of green tea. An hour later, I drank a whole bottle of wine with dinner.
I think I deserved all that.
It was too dark by then to take pictures, so I left everything in place to take pictures tomorrow.
Tomorrow, I begin to build the framed bed to which to add soil and compost...