Now You're Weeding With Fire

There's been a lot of interest in the flame weeder, so I thought I would do another post about it.

Here's one patch I worked on last weekend, a week later:

Torched patch a week later

In that photo you can sort of see the problem with the flame weeder: it is a device of blunt force, not finesse. While I have been considering taking the kitchen brulee torch out for smaller weeds in tighter spots, the reality is that heat is really good at killing things dead, even things you didn't want to kill.

And yet, for those broadleaf weeds with a nice thick taproot, a single torching might not be enough. These guys were clearly crisped in the first round, but still have some green leaves. You have to be careful giving a weed a second torching, because the dead parts will start on fire. Oxalis was definitely in this category: I browned it last week, but it sprang back, so this week I torched it until it burst into flames. Still, it's coming from a bulb, so it will take several rounds to kill it.

Flame weeder and broadleaf weeds

Here's the torch in action. You get the flow up where the flame turns clear/blueish and then pass it over the weeds. They turn very bright green and wilt, although the oxalis, as noted, turns a lovely brown moments later. As soon as the plant has wilted, you move the wand further on.

Quick pass torching

And my torch has a "turbo" trigger: squeeze on it and a great huge shooting flame comes out with a loud wind noise, and whatever happens to be in front of you is pretty much singed to death. Quite dramatic.

Great flames!

I'm very happy with the results of the flame weeder: I will continue to use it in places where Roundup is inadvisable. The flame weeder works best in places where there are a lot of little, unestablished plants (like Bermuda grass seedlings) that you want to get rid of: the sort of job where pulling by hand is a pain in the butt. And it's totally organic.

As a safety note, I do think it's prudent to have a hose at the ready and to water where you've torched afterwards, and of course be sure to look out for pieces of your house, irrigation lines, hoses, and your household gas plumbing. Kids and pets should be kept away. I did manage to start the ground on fire a couple of times, so this is not to be taken lightly.

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posted by ayse on 03/04/07

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