I wouldn’t recommend killing the cottonwoods since they are hearty and last a long time (they also resist fire). But if you must kill them, you can cut down the trees, then remove the stump with a shovel or stump grinder to prevent regrowth. Cottonwood trees have high transplantability, so if you have somewhere to replant them then it may be a good idea to do so. This would involve digging up the rootball and keeping it moist. You can get tips on transplanting a tree at this website: http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/plantsci/trees/f1147w.htm Also, it is best to avoid the herbicide route, which may be easier but can often contaminate healthy, desirable plants in the vicinity.
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