When it comes to weed control, we’ve tried everything. Our place is a working small farm on 20 acres, so we have what we politely call a “farm lawn.” It’s not perfect, but we do make an effort to keep nature from taking over, and our weed burner is our favorite tool for weed control.
What Is a Weed Torch?
Weed torches are a simple, clean method for controlling weed growth without using nasty herbicides like Roundup. They have three parts:
- A burner element on a long wand for burning the weeds
- A connector hose
- A propane tank as a fuel source
Propane tanks are heavy. We solved this problem by using the 20-pound cylinders that we also use to power our gas grill, and we bought a small dolly made by the same manufacturer that makes our weed burner so we can roll the tank around the yard as we operate the burner wand. You’ll need a long connector hose if you use this method. The package comes with a 10-foot hose, but we bought a 25-foot hose so we didn’t have to move the tank as often.
For this year, we recently bought a 5-pound propane tank that we fill ourselves. It fits nicely in a backpack (also available from the manufacturer), and the 10-foot connector hose that comes with the burner wand package works perfectly with it.
How to Use a Weed Flamer Effectively and Safely
Basically, the system works by pointing the flame from the burner at those annoying weeds and killing them, but there are a lot of misconceptions about using this system that we’d like to clear up. The most important point is to just cook the weed; don’t burn it to a crisp. If you burn the weed all the way to ash, the roots will survive, and it will come back. Instead, you want to evaporate most of the moisture out of the weed and then move on while it still has its green color. The plant will respond by pulling moisture out of its roots. This makes the roots wilt along with the plant and kills the entire weed. It takes 24 to 48 hours, so don’t be put off when you look outside and still see green weeds. This is exactly how the system is supposed to work.
The limitation on weed torches is that they work best in the spring while the weeds are small and have tender leaves. The torch system doesn’t work well on dry, woody stems. If it’s later in the year and your weed growth is well advanced, you’ll be better off waiting until next season and starting early. We also don’t use the burner in any areas where there are plants we want to keep, because it’s not very selective. Hand digging is your only choice in perennial beds.
Safety is always a paramount concern when working with fire. Here are some tips that will help you use your system safely:
- Always check connections and fittings for leaks before you begin
- Don’t work in dry or windy weather
- Keep a garden hose and sprayer handy, with enough hose to reach the area you’re working in
- Wear safety glasses
A Natural Weed Killer Is the Way to Go
It’s important to us to only use an organic weed killer and keep garden chemicals off our property because we are in the process of qualifying for organic farm certification. Most people opt for the easy solution and use an herbicide, such as Roundup, in weedy areas, especially under chain link fence. We feel strongly that we don’t want children and pets exposed to these chemicals, and we also don’t care for the results. Sure, the treated areas look great right after treatment, but when the weeds come back, they’re much worse than before because the toughest weeds are the first to come back after the soil has been treated with herbicide.
Our approach is to use natural weed control. We use the weed torch to kill the weeds, and then we either cover the treated areas with landscaping cloth and mulch, or we plant attractive perennials in place of the weeds. Every year, we make progress and need the torch less and less.
It’s still a farm lawn, but we love it.