Scorched Earth Policy

I bought a flame weeder for the garden, and spent some time terrified of setting something on fire with it, so when I saw it was damp and rainy out this morning I decided to give it another go, on the theory that things were less likely to leap into flames.

The basic concept behind the flame weeder is that it takes a lot less time to kill a plant with high heat than it does to set it on fire. You run the hot end over the weeds for a very short time, and often they slump and start looking unhappy. A day later, they are clearly dead.

Some plants (mostly grasses) are kind of subtle about being killed. These broadleaf weeds, though, were not subtle: a small amount of heat and they turned black, not charred, but clearly seriously damaged.

broadleaf weeds after burning

Oxalis was very satisfying: a small amount of heat and moments later the leaves turned this orangy brown colour. This could be a very easy way to control the population.

Dead oxalis

Here's my reference shot of one open patch in the lawn. There's all kinds of weeds growing in there, and I'm interested to see how well the flame weeder worked.

Reference shot

This is definitely a fun way to weed, if a trifle intimidating and dangerous. I've got high hopes for it, at least in terms of weeding in the back garden where everything has to be dog-safe (the dogs are, sensibly, terrified of the flame weeder).

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posted by ayse on 02/26/07


Can you post a pic of the flame weeder? I've never heard of one but it might be what I need for my jungley back yard this spring and summer. We can't get a grip.

I have been leafing through the photos we took and there really isn't one of the weeder, so here are some links for you. I got our weeder at Harbor Freight, so it's less fancy (and a lot cheaper) than this, but the Red Dragon is sort of the canonical flame weeder. They come in smaller sizes, if you don't need something quite that dramatic.

And here's an article on flame weeding for more general reference.

Note: We're getting pummeled with spam comments, so I've turned off the ability to use any HTML or include any links for the time being. Email with any issues.

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