Weed Management for Organic Farm : Do Weed Burners Work?

Flame weeding is a powerful tool in the fight against weeds. While the name makes it sound like a dramatic process of burning out plants, the reality is less exciting. It simply involves passing flame briefly over weeds in order to kill their plant cells. Done correctly, this technique can destroy both annual and perennial weeds, although it works best on weeds that grow in before the seeds of plants you want to keep have had a chance to sprout. It isn’t easy to separate the weeds from the plants you want once they are all growing at the same time.

 

Background

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Weed flaming is based on the idea that exposure to heat can break down the plant cells that make up weeds. With minimal effort, the part of the weed that is above ground will die, although flames and heat won’t affect the roots of weeds. It takes very little heat to kill a weed- less than half a second of direct contact is sufficient. The goal is not to burn away the plant- that is excessive and dangerous. Think of it as a fast-acting pesticide that won’t leave behind a harmful residue.

How To Flame Weeds

The first thing you need is bottled gas, usually propane, and a nozzle or wand to distribute it: you should be able to find these at a local store with gardening and home care goods or local gas suppliers like Plusgas for example. The gas canister will be heavy, so something to carry it with you, like a hand cart, also helps. If you are planning to work in a small area, it might not be necessary. The canister should have come with a lighter. Read all instructions and precautions that come with your kit, and make sure that you understand how it works and what you should avoid. In particular, keep the stream of flame away from the hose that connects the nozzle to the gas canister. All you need to do is pass the flame lightly over the weeds, particularly the leaves. They should become dull and faded in color, but not appear burnt. Remember, the goal is to break down their cells, not turn them to ash.

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When To Use

It isn’t easy to direct flame when the weeds are mixed in with good plants, so make sure you are sticking to areas where the only plant life is unwanted, like sidewalk cracks and walkways. Keep in mind that annual weeds should only need a single treatment, because they won’t come back. On the other hand, perennial weeds will need multiple treatments- they can regrow from their root system within a few weeks. After a few passes, they will stop growing back. Flaming weeds is faster and safer than using pesticides if done correctly and in the right context. If the weeds are in the close vicinity of valuable plants, then flame is too indiscriminate a solution. However, anytime the weeds are separate and isolated, then using flame is a viable means of removing them.

 

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