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  • Writer's pictureJere Folgert

Flame Weeding to Kill Weeds !

Updated: Jan 11


Using Fire and a Weed Flamer to Kill Weeds
Using Fire to Kill Weeds. Garlic Farm

Weed flaming, or flame weeding, is a method of weed control that uses a handheld propane torch to ignite weeds. The heat from the flame kills the weeds by destroying their cells and preventing them from growing further.


Weed flaming is a relatively new method of weed control, but it has become increasingly popular in recent years. It is a non-chemical method of weed control, which makes it appealing to environmentally conscious gardeners. It is also a relatively quick and easy method of weed control, which makes it appealing to busy gardeners.


Weed flaming is most effective on young, actively growing weeds. It is not as effective on older, more established weeds. It is also not as effective on weeds that have thick, waxy leaves.


Weed flaming can be used in a variety of settings, including gardens, lawns, and sidewalks. It is important to use caution when weed flaming, as it can easily damage plants if it is not used properly.


Here are the steps on how to flame weed:

  1. Choose the right tool. A handheld propane torch is the most common tool used for weed flaming.

  2. Prepare the area. Make sure the area is free of debris and that there are no flammable materials nearby.

  3. Light the torch. Hold the torch about 12 inches away from the weed and move it slowly back and forth over the weed until it is completely engulfed in flames.

  4. Be careful not to burn yourself or the plants around the weed.

  5. After the weed is dead, extinguish the flame. You can do this by spraying it with water or by stomping it out.

  6. Repeat steps 3-5 on other weeds.

Weed flaming is a safe and effective way to control weeds. It is a non-chemical method of weed control that is easy to use. However, it is important to use caution when weed flaming, as it can easily damage plants if it is not used properly.


Fire is Awesome. Flame Weeding is Awesome. It adds FUN to growing garlic.


Fire is the visible effect of the process of combustion. It can appear as flickers of orange, red, yellow, blue and green. Fire is a special type of chemical reaction. It occurs between oxygen in the air and some sort of fuel. The products from the chemical reaction are completely different from the starting material These flickers of heat rippling in the air, require oxygen, heat, and fuel. This is considered the "fire triangle." Add in the fourth element, like nasty weeds, and we have a sweet chemical reaction, Whew! and you have a fire "tetrahedron."


Growing Garlic is a rewarding experience, though it can be a lot of work. Dealing with weeds in a dedicated garlic patch can surely take the fun out of growing garlic. Arggg! Flame weeding is a viable solution to remove many weeds that compete for and attempt to steal precious nutrients from your prized garlic plants. Essentially, Weed Flaming uses heat to destroy the cell structure in the plant's leaf and core structure. The weed will no longer put energy toward growth (photosynthesis). If the weeds or forbs are flamed when they are small and young, often this process will kill the entire plant including the root system.


CRITICAL AND IMPORTANT INFORMATION: If you decide to use a weed flamer to irritate weeds, it is critically important you wear a mask or respirator to prevent any dangerous smoke from getting into your lungs.


Using Flames and Heat to Destroy Weeds


At GroEat Farm, we use a propane tank roughly the size of a beer keg, strapped to a backpack (or pulled in a wagon) and a flame-throwing wand. 300,000 BTUs of heat thrown at weeds, allows us to cook to death these weeds, instead of spraying them with nasty chemicals.


weed flaming, propane tank, harbor freight, back pack, wand, garlic, hardneck garlic, kill weeds
Weed Flame with Propane Tank

Flame Weeding involves "throwing a hot, brief flame" onto a weed plant to briefly heat the plant's sensitive plant tissue, just enough to explode the chloroplasts and kill the plant. The leaves of the weed often turn a lighter green color and the plants then have a slightly wet appearance. The plant's cell membranes is disrupted by the heat. Flame weeding often called “flaming,” is just one method for natural weed management. After the heat is applied to the plant tissues just enough to kill them, the plant's leaves will start to look dull and wilt a bit. The method isn’t appropriate for every situation.


Flaming is just one of the tools we use to remove weeds from our garlic patch. Flaming works really well in certain situations,” said Jere Folgert, owner and farmer at GRO Eat Farm near Bozeman, Montana. “Flame Weeding can work really well on young weeds, that are not right next to the garlic plant. Flaming also works well to destroy the seeds on weeds, essentially eliminating next year's weeds." Jere also warned that "If your garlic patch includes mulch such as straw or dried leaves, definitely do not use this method to kill weeds. We no longer mulch our garlic field and have had excellent results." Flaming is nearly 100% effective at killing very young weeds that are just emerging from the soil, whereas weeds over 3+ inches are more difficult to kill without multiple flamings. Repeat applications combined with hand-pulling of weeds will usually do the trick. For best results, increase exposure to the heat if weeds are wet from dew. Thistles often require more exposure to the heat given their dense leaf structure. Water on the leaves acts as insulation and decreases cell damage unless exposure time is increased. Jere Folgert stated: "It is important to remember when flaming in and around desirable plants, such as garlic, the heating process can cause damage to the garlic plants as well. Fire does not know the difference between desirable plants and undesirable weeds. Be careful around the sensitive garlic leaves, especially early in their growth cycle. We use a small, light-weight aluminum snow shovel that is placed between the flame and the garlic plant. It is a little extra work, and it allows us to zap weeds growing close to the garlic plants."




The goal is not to completely burn up the weed (although this is a truly satisfying experience), but to destroy plant tissue so that the weed dies. Flame weeding kills the above-ground portion of the weed, but it doesn't necessarily kill the roots. Starving the roots of energy provided by the leaf structure has the potential to kill the weed. Another big benefit of Flame Weeding is it can be used to zap or kill seeds that are on weed plants. The heat and flame zaps viable seeds from Dandoline, Broadleaf Plantain, Chickweed, Lamb's Quarters, and Pennywort.


We believe Flame Weeding is most effective when it is used as one tool in our arsenal, integrated with other management tools, such as picking weeds by hand (plant and root), tilling, and mowing. Flaming is rarely utilized as the sole tool in a garden. Flaming is less effective when used on perennial weeds, which have below-ground root systems from which new weeds can emerge.


WARNING: Poison ivy, oak, or any poisonous plant should not be burned! and should be avoided. The vapor/smoke from flamed leaves can cause a rash on your skin, eyes, and lungs. Some weeds are poisonous members of the nightshade family and are difficult weeds to eradicate since they resist most attempts at control. Climbing Nightshade - Solanum dulcamara is one example. Tilling the soil only makes it worse because it brings seeds to the surface where they can germinate. Flame weeding doesn’t kill the weed either because of the penetrating roots. Ideally, wear a respirator when weed flaming. Also, be aware of the wind direction. Let any smoke or residue blow away from you. Wear proper feet and leg protection. Don't use a weed flamer in dry, hot and windy conditions. Have a garden hose close by just in case you need to distinguish any flames. Don't use a flame weeder if you have mulch in your garden, such as straw or leaves.



DON'T START A WILDFIRE: Anything with an open flame has the potential to be dangerous. The risk of fire is always there when using a flame weeder. Dried and brown material (dried grass) is flammable. Flame weeding too close to structures poses a risk. Flame weeding during exceptionally dry weather conditions is not advisable. Don't use this tool if windy conditions exist. Don't become a pyromaniac.


A STORY ABOUT WEED FLAMING AND JOE

Joe was a man who loved his garlic garden. He would spend hours every day tending to his plants, making sure they were watered and fertilized. But one day, Joe noticed that his garden was being overrun by weeds. He tried to pull them out, but they just kept coming back.


Joe was determined to get rid of the weeds, so he went to the store and bought a weed torch and a full take of propane. He figured that if he burned the weeds, they would never come back.


The next day, Joe went out to his garlic garden and started flaming the weeds. He was careful not to burn the plants, but he did get a little carried away. Joe continued to flame the weeds for several days. He even started flaming them at night, when it was cooler.


He always used a respirator mask when burning weeds, to prevent lung damage.


The next day, Joe was out in his garlic patch, gleefully burning weeds with his new weed-flaming toy. He was so engrossed in his task that he didn't notice his neighbor, Mrs. Smith, watching him from her window.


Mrs. Smith was stunned. She had never seen anything like it. She couldn't believe that Joe would be so destructive. She had to do something. And why was Joe wearing such a big, ugly mask?


Mrs. Smith marched over to Joe's house and into Joe's garlic patch, and Mrs. Smith was immediately hit by the smell of smoke.


"Joe, what are you doing?" she asked.

"I'm getting rid of these weeds," Joe said.

"But you're burning them!" Mrs. Smith said. "That's dangerous!"

"It's perfectly safe," Joe said. "I'm using a weed flamer."

"But what about the fumes?" Mrs. Smith asked. "They're not safe to breathe."

"I'm wearing a mask," Joe said.

"And what about the fire?" Mrs. Smith asked. "What if it spreads to your house?"

"I'm being careful," Joe said. "I'm only burning the weeds."

Mrs. Smith shook her head. "I don't like this," she said. "I think you should stop."

"I'm almost done," Joe said. "Just a few more weeds."

Mrs. Smith sighed. "Fine," she said. "But be careful."

Joe smiled. "I will," he said.


Mrs. Smith went back to her house, but she couldn't stop thinking about Joe and his weed flamer. She was worried about her weeds, and she was wondering if she too could use a weed flamer in her yard and garden?


The next day, Mrs. Smith went to the hardware store and bought a weed flamer of her own. She was determined to see if this weed flaming tool really worked for killing weeds. She was determined even if it meant using her own.


The next time Joe was out in his yard, burning weeds, and he noticed Mrs. Smith dressed in a bright yellow fireproof jacket and pants. She was wearing a backpack with a white propane take strapped to the frame. Joe walked up to her fence and asked:


"What are you doing?" he asked.

"I'm going to burn weeds too," Mrs. Smith said. "I'm sick of these weeds and I love playing with fire."

"But you don't have to do that," Joe said. "I'm almost done. I could help you?"

"You need to wear a proper respirator. Some of these weeds give off poisonous gas when they are burned. I have an extra one for you." He ran into his shop and grabbed an extra mask and helped Mrs. Smith put it on.

"I know! Even though I'm 88, I know I can do this!" Mrs. Smith said.

Joe smiled. " "But I want to help too," he screamed.


Joe and Mrs. Smith spent the rest of the afternoon burning weeds together. They talked and laughed, and they got to know each other better. By the time they were finished, they had become friends.


From that day on, Joe and Mrs. Smith burned weeds together every week, after a rain storm. They made sure the surrounding grass and tree leaves were a little damp. They became known as the "Weed-B-Gone" team, and they were known throughout the neighborhood for their dedication to weed control.





kill weeds with a flame thrower.  groeat farm bozeman
propane flame thrower to kill weeds garlic farm






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