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A Good Flame Weeder/Weed Wand?

17 years ago

I'm looking to buy a flame weeder... those weed torch things. I prefer to hand-pull weeds when I can, but there are a couple areas that this would be a better option. Has anyone used these? If so, could you recommend a good brand and model? Thanks!

Comments (33)

  • gardenspice
    17 years ago

    I have one and it is GREAT!
    Like you, I hand pull in most cases, but for really tough spots and on the granite paths, the torch is super!
    We bought it to kill off grass in an area we were prepping for a large bed.
    I'm pretty sure we went with the one in the link below. We bought it over a year ago, so I'm not positive, but it sure looks like the right one.
    Regardless, it is a pretty low tech item, I doubt you could go wrong.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Weed Dragon

  • diggingthedirt
    17 years ago

    Got mine at the hardware store - it's just a torch on a long wand, basically. I wanted it to use between bricks on paths and patios.

    Don't let it fall into the wrong hands, as I did a few years ago, when my non-gardening husband decided to use it as an edger. Yuck - burnt grass for weeks all along the edge of the patio.

    It isn't as effective as I'd hoped, the grass comes back and you have to keep after it. We actually don't have a big problem with grass, just the odd weed or self-sown plant here and there in the spaces between the bricks. I leave some, burn some, pull some. Since I'm not especially tidy, it's not a big problem - just to warn you that these are not as effective as you might wish.

  • dethride
    17 years ago

    I've used the Dragon for two seasons now and I like it. What I've learned is to hit the young weeds when they are still small but large enough to include many of the still sprouting seeds that are in the soil. It's good to watch the imature seed pods burst into a death dance instead of spreading their progeny. Wet weeds fight off the flames with the water that is on the leaves so wait until the dew or rain is dry. Watch the rate at which the little plants droop, wilt, and start to ember up and play with the distance at which you hold the nozzle. I find about six to eight inches works well. On larger plants I hold it a few seconds longer for a sure kill. I set the tank down and move in a circle or up and down the row without moving the tank until I've done as much as I can reach, then I move the tank and repeat. And crank up the fuel if you think it ain't killing fast enough! Have a water source near to fight any fires. I have a garden on a steep hill (groan) and it's good to kill weeds that are on the stepped part instead of yanking them out along with half the terrace! I've seen pics of large organic farmers using propane weed flamers in between the rows.

  • diggingthedirt
    17 years ago

    Hey Bo -
    I nominate that for the best post of 2005. Made me laugh on a day when not many things would.

  • diospyros4luna
    Original Author
    17 years ago

    Thanks everyone for all the flame-thrower advice so far!

    BoSvenson... very entertaining! Although I assure you that woman or not I will approach the task with the correct childlike zeal. Can't wait. And, since you mention hornets... what about fire ants? I assume it wouldn't get the queens, but perhaps putting their swarming fanaticism when the hill is disturbed to good use on a repeated basis would eventually get rid of them without dumping poisons in my garden?

    Plus they'd probably sound similar to rice crispies when they go up in flames. That would have to be satisfying.

  • cncnorman
    17 years ago

    oooh, my favorite thing to use ours for is torching the webworms that we cut down every summer. Such a wonderful sound!

  • gardenspice
    17 years ago

    Oh yes - fireants - they work great on fireants. I GLEEFULLY torch the fireants.
    Just thinking about it makes me want to go look for some right now!

  • dethride
    17 years ago

    BoSvenson, well written! I can relate to your inspiration.

  • Bo Svenson
    17 years ago

    Glad you all enjoyed it. :) I got one of these several years ago when I was running an organic farm, and I kept noticing the same reaction from everyone I introduced it to.

    Definitely the best "non-intended" use is problem insect eradication. We don't have fire ants in the PNW but I imagine you could rain holy hell down on a nest of the little buggers. I can report with confidence that a basketball-sized hornet nest can be completely destroyed in 5 seconds or less with the flamer. If you do this during the day, you can also partake in a related sport: shooting down incoming hornets that are trying to return to the nest. Raises the stakes a little. ;^) Also excellent for wholesale tent caterpillar destruction (after you have removed them from the tree, that is.)

    One final note that I should have mentioned earlier is that the main hazard is unintentional ground fires, particularly in the summer. It's a good idea to keep an eye on areas you've already gone over to make sure nothing has ignited after you passed by. I wear heavy boots and stomp out any flareups, but you should also have a hose within easy reach.

  • gardenspice
    17 years ago

    One other word of advice: Sometimes those gleeful males need to be supervised. They can't be blamed, but sometimes in all the excitement, they forget that the point is to kill WEEDS. Small just coming up perennials may just look close enough.
    who found her Anigozanthos flavidus smoldering on Friday

  • diospyros4luna
    Original Author
    17 years ago

    Sometimes those gleeful males need to be supervised.

    Boy, can I relate to that. Mine already is a terror with only a lawn mower...

  • derevaun
    17 years ago

    I've been considering getting one of these toys, but two concerns are holding me back:

    On some but not all of the gravel, there's landscape cloth underneath, and the water lines have got to be somewhere under there. Is there a danger of melting that stuff?

    Used in the yard wouldn't it also "kill" the soil--bacteria, nematodes, etc?

  • alfie_md6
    17 years ago

    I agree that the things are highly entertaining, but they are also highly inefficient when it comes to keeping a big gravel area weedless, in my experience. You're better off actually weeding.

  • dbockwoldt
    17 years ago

    Do you think it would get rid of grubs if you fried the infested area?

    I am using a weed torch for the first time this spring and i'm not sure how long to scorch the weeds... They look like roasted vegetables after you are done, i.e. green with black edges. Does this do the trick? Or do you have to burn them to the point of non-recognition?

    Is the point to just scorch the leaves or do you have to get down to the base of the plant, which takes alot more time.

    Good by garlic mustard!!!!

  • tonitime
    17 years ago

    Hi All!
    I received a weed torch for Mom's day a few years ago. I use it in spots only seasonally....great for stone walkways and around the moss garden perimeter. There is a point where i do not feel so good about using fuel for areas that can be better weeded other ways. A little guilt hits at times! It is one of the most relaxing chores, for sure.
    I am also going to get one of those devices that you can refill disposable propane cannisters from a larger tank, after freezing the cans for awhile.... this sounds like a good thing for 15 or so dollars.
    My husband is going to fix me up with a bigger tank on a good dolly and a longggggg hose. The cannisters go too quickly and seem like a waster in this world of too many disposables. Another small effort to walk the talk of energy conservation in general.If only there were a cheap and available source for strong vinegar. I'd feel better about that.
    Also, one needs to watch out for toads and little snakes when using this tool...sighhh.

  • Bo Svenson
    17 years ago

    DBockwoldt, you don't want to fry the weeds too much - the idea is to heat them up so that the water inside the cells boils, which causes them to rupture, and kills the vegetation. The rule of thumb I use is to roast the weeds until they wilt and give up a large puff of steam. However, for weeds that have a lot of top vegetation, it's usually a good idea to burn them a little longer, focusing on the center.

    If you burn them to the point where they totally blacken, you are only wasting fuel.

  • marie99
    17 years ago

    If you don't have that kind of bucks, you can get smaller scale entertainment by using a torch meant for a coleman gas bottle on the weeds.

  • frog_ladyofTX
    17 years ago

    "If only there were a cheap and available source for strong vinegar. I'd feel better about that."
    Make your own vinegar easily & cheaply. Mix 5 lbs of sugar with 3 gallons of water, boil rapidly for 5 minutes. Allow to cool then put in a 5 gallon plastic bucket or crock. Make a paste with 2 pkgs dry yeast & a little water. Put paste on a very dry piece of large toast & float in sugar water.. Cover bucket or crock tightly with cheese cloth. Vinegar is done when toast sinks, 4-6 weeks. I set mine in a stall in the barn. It gets a little stinky, but not really all that bad. I can't tell you the acidity (too cheap to buy a test kit), but works just fine for killing weeds. Don't think I'd use it for anything else tho.

  • organic_dainel
    16 years ago

    anyone used these things for removing thatch in the St. Augustine grass? a landscape company owner named Guido recomended this to me instead of raking. Then filling in with soil/manure.

    anybody tried this?

  • Miss_Mudcat
    16 years ago

    I would NOT recommend using a weed torch for removing thatch. Nor would I recommend using it where you wish nice things to grow. DH bought one a few years back to torch the weeds in the gravel drive and brick walkway. Works great for those areas, but not along the edges. It kills the weeds, but it also kills the grass...AND it sterilizes the soil and destroys the good relationship that the grass has developed with the soil organisms. What happens then, grass will no longer grow there, but weeds grow profusely! AARGH!!!

  • capemanx
    14 years ago

    I am about to purchase a flame weeder from Gardener's supply($50) and am curious to know if others have used it and your reaction. I have a stone garden path that goes around the entire house and when hand weeding it, at the end of weeding I start again at the beginning!
    I THINK burning would be easier to kill the weeds and not the stepables that I WANT to keep growing.
    Do the weeds, ( eg dandelions), when attacked by heat , then die and have to be pulled up anyhow?

  • kimpa zone 9b N. Florida.
    14 years ago

    I have one that I use on my brick paver patio. Dandelions and other strong weeds may regrow as you are only killing the top growth. It works best on small plants. Others that can recover from having all of their leaves killed off will have to be dealt with again. I don't pull out the burned plants. They turn dark and crumble away.

  • rachel_beagan
    14 years ago

    We just planted on a huge slope in our backyard. About 200 hundred ivy plants (which we are hoping will eventually grow into a nice ground cover), tons of perennial flowers, small shrubs and two dwarf trees are planted there. I BELIEVE it will look beautiful and lush in about 3 to 5 years but the WEEDS and GRASS are out of control!! As of right now my husband and I are picking and hoeing away. I don't want to use chemicals because I have small children. If I use a flamer to killed the weeds and the grass will the ivy and the other plants grow on the areas that I have torched?


  • dancinglemons
    12 years ago

    A blast from the past!! Thanks everyone. DH will get one for Easter.


  • melsor
    9 years ago

    We bought a flame-throwing weeder this summer when we were going crazy in our first season of fighting weeds organically. I'm developing/landscaping a half-acre yard and orchard on a slope -- lots of work. I hire a group of six high school boys. They are great workers, and love the flame-throwing weeder (and riding mower/tractor). When a fire started in the weeds under the gazebo, all work stopped and great excitement ensued; boys raced from all parts of the yard to witness the event. The only woman present had to remind them the water hydrant was a scant 12" from the gazebo: TURN ON THE WATER!
    The flame thrower makes the 4000 sq ft of graveled area we have in various pathways and patios look great -- after about 8 hours of labor, and for about a week! I'm quite disappointed in the efficiency and effectiveness of this device.
    We pull all large weeds that pull easily, and spot burn remaining weeds, not until they are brown and dried, but just until the edges of the leaves turn black. We do not bother to pull out the dying weeds; they dry up and flake off and away. Several weeks separate treatments, so any weed whose roots are not killed grows back nice and green. We're going to try treating the same area 4-5 days apart, and see if the effectiveness goes up. But what to do about all the seeds that blow in? Corn meal gluten, so far, isn't doing anything (does one need to wet it to activate it?).
    We do have landscape fabric under the gravel; I'm quite sure it is not being burned.
    To Rachel Beagan, how is your hillside of perennials now? Did you get control of the weeds and grasses growing in amongst the plants? I tried to turn a grassy area into a shrub bed about 15 years ago, and lost the intense battle against the grasses reclaiming the area. I didn't know at that time about sheet mulching with cardboard under the wood chips. I have now found that killing the grasses and weeds first by covering with thick cardboard, and THEN planting, then surrounding the shrubs with new cardboard and 3-4" of wood chips gives a much better result. I find, though, that the cardboard has to be replaced about twice yearly (rake away the decomposing wood chips, put down fresh cardboard, and cover with old and fresh wood chips) to keep the weeds away. A lot of work, but gives a better result than constant weeding, in my opinion. Better yet is to take out the sod (also a LOT of work), then plant and cardboard and wood chip.
    Bottom line for me is that weeds are here to stay; get used to it. I'm sure open to any reports of vanquished weeds in large areas, and how that was accomplished.

  • jolj
    9 years ago

    It seems costly, but after using a cutting torch & gas welder, I bet it works well.
    I know some of you are tried of hearing about my tough perennials, but like the older weeds in above post, they will come back. Any rock area it would work well, you do not want to up heave the rock,stone & pavers to dig weeds.

  • ankhank
    9 years ago

    > We just planted ....About 200 hundred ivy plants ....
    > will the ivy and the other plants grow on
    > the areas that I have torched?

    Nothing kills English ivy. Nothing. When I first started trying to remove that stuff where it'd taken over, I asked on Usenet (before the WWW) how to remove it. I only got two responses from the whole world, both from Great Britan. Both said, if you ever figure it out, please post the answer.

    My mother placed little sprigs of ivy around our new house in the 1960s. It's everywhere, runners underground, any lawnmower pass throws hundreds of little live bits that reroot, and it eats Roundup for breakfast and grows, and grows.

    Best of luck with the ivy. Don't turn your back on it.

    For most anything else, I'd recommend the Red Dragon, I've used one for 20+years

  • Kimmsr
    9 years ago

    Flame weeders use a non renewable resource for fuel which seems somewhat contradictory to the organic way of doing things.

  • bggrows
    9 years ago

    If you carefully put rock salt on the spaces between stones during a very warm day the weeds and unwanted grass will die. I have done it for years and does not bother surrounding grass or plants as long as you don't spread it where not wanted. Do not water for several days.

  • dirtguy50 SW MO z6a
    9 years ago

    Harbor Freight runs their flame weed eaters on sale from $19.95 to $29.95 quite often. They are great!!!!

    This post was edited by dirtguy50 on Wed, Apr 17, 13 at 17:52

  • worthyvess
    7 years ago

    ankhank posted "Nothing kills English ivy. Nothing.".
    I had a fairly large area of ivy, and various other spots in my yard. I hand pulled it all. Comes back a bit but is easy to pull. I didn't find it difficult at all, except of course the original pulling, which was time consuming but not back breaking. there is a technique! Pull, and when you meet resistance, look for a vine that is crossing over the one you are pulling. Pull that one, and again, if there is resistance, there is another vine crossing over that one. Eventually they all come up. I pulled out the equivalent to a large dumpster full. Not a difficult plant to pull, unlike some other weeds. I just cut the vines growing up trees, but don't pull them off, as it will remove the bark.
    Now I am going to try a weed flamer to do my neighbors ivy for her, it is invading the woods and taking it over! Wish me luck! btw, is a 500,000 btu torch too much?

  • didee73
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    What are your thoughts of removing weeds that come up on my lake side beach, my neighbor is convinced Round up is safe, I am not. I've been told salt dawn, vinegar, but just thought torch would be effective.