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Flame weeder, worth it?

 
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Hello everyone!

Flame weeders sure look enticing. What are your opinions on them? Are they worth the investment?

I am aiming to market garden starting in the spring.

Thanks
 
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ive often wondered about this, the flame weeders ive seen use propane---aaarrrggg--- fossil fuel use----not a good thing
when wildfires sweep through areas the charred remains become fertilizer and the new growth is spectacular ---a good thing

so burning an area when its safe to do so can be a good thing

big question is does the fire destroy weed seed?
 
gardener
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I had a CSA years ago where the farmer used them in his fields. It was a great time saver instead of pulling weeds. For me, personally, I have a small space and beasts that eat the weeds so I wouldn't use it, though flamethrowers might be fun?? (not sure, don't hold me to that, also, fuel canisters, etc etc).
If you're able to keep up with mulching you might not need it, it depends on what your situation is where you are, of course.
 
pollinator
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I vote "no." My gut feeling is that flame weeders are a solution looking for a problem. In other words, a gimmick. It's just a plumbers propane torch on a stick, for a lot more money, expensive to run, and can only be used for one thing. Doesn't kill taproots. I really don't get it.

Edit: maybe I'm thinking of the wrong thing? Link please?
 
gardener
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I know someone who has one. She reportedly is followed around outside  by her husband, carrying a pail of water lest she light the house on fire (and she has come close).

That being said, her yard is pretty weed free and she has a lot of fun...

I can see the appeal as a fun way to get rid of driveway weeds, but would balk at the price. Plus, ergonomically they look not great to me.

If I were market gardening,  I would invest in a few loads of woodchips or other mulch instead, and well composted manure.  Keeps the weeds down and makes them easy to pull, reduces watering needs, keeps the soil more consistently moist, etc. Maybe a wheel hoe and some good standing weeding tools/hoes.
 
pollinator
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They are very much worth it for some crops, carrots and parsnips I like it for. I'm not sure where you guys are looking at prices but they are very cheap here (single burners not the one that do 75cm at a time) and take the same gas canister as the cooker, so no extra equipment needed there. In a market gardening sense you use them on weed seedlings not full grown weeds. Saying that I only use mine a couple of times a year so it's certainly not an essential piece of equipment
 
gardener
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I own one. For me, it is worth the investment.  But, this is one of the many "your mileage may vary" things that we encounter in life.  I use it in the rainy times only....  I am very concerned about fires with it. I should be. The first year I used it, i was very careful.  I hosed down every place i had used it with water. The next morning  i was missing 6 bales of straw.  I counted myself as lucky.  My guess is i missed a spark, and that is all it took.  I am ultra cautious now. I use it in early mornings and check where I used it several times during the day. Another negative is that is you use it for a few hours, expect to go through $20  of LP.  That said, at least once a year i knock out a weeks worth of weed control in a couple of hours. For me, it is worth the trade off.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
pollinator
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After my previous post I looked up some of the commercial grade units. Very different from the 8,000 BTU cane style I had previously seen.

I can see their utility in some situations. As soon as weeding involves paid labour, this would be less expensive overall.
 
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I love my flame weeder.  It's great for burning weeds in gravel, along the rock mulch and rock slopes in our yard, and along any grass edge to make a nice edge (barring the other side of the grass being wood chips). My alternatives would be to either hand pick (which I do for the big weeds anyways) but it's pretty hard to pick most weeds out of rock, or use a weed killer.  I fugure the torch is much better for the environement than a weed killer and it's more economical as well.  Plus, it is a whole lot of fun toasting weeds:)  You do have to very careful about using it in the summer, though, of course, but it is doable.
 
Jen Swanson
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I'm wondering it you ended up getting the weed burner?
In case you have or are still considering it, I have a couple of additional thoughts the weed burner: 1 - Do not use on thickly growing weeds.  The smoke is not good for the lungs.  Trust me on this.  2 - Do not use in drought conditions.  And if you do, keep a turned on hose handy and hose everything down afterwards to ensure nothing is smoldering.
I do love my weed burner but it works best for me and my lungs if I use it on rocky areas that have a few weeds poking up. It's great at edging these areas too.  Where I live, the weeds go dormant in the summer when it's droughty and sprout again in the fall and spring with the rains, so it's perfect for me...in the right applications.
 
gardener & hugelmaster
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Location: mountains of Tennessee
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The farmer in this pic seems to think it's worth it.

dragon-tractor.jpg
dragon tractor
dragon tractor
 
Douglas Alpenstock
pollinator
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That's an awesome pic! I wonder if the carbon footprint is actually less than tilling the soil. I would think you can move fairly quickly, with the tractor idling along. Propane vs. diesel? Propane probably wins.
 
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I second what Jen said.  I live in the desert with a lot of rock landscaping, and clay soil under it.  No way I can reasonably pull a weed from the rocks along with getting its long tap root out of the hard clay soil here.

I've been using a flame thrower weeder for the last ten years or so.  The idea isn't to burn the weed to a black crisp, only to transition the green leaves to a darker green color.  Something about it being better to put the plant/weed into shock rather than kill the top only.  It's more likely the plant will put its energy into repairing itself, which should end up being a lost cause.  I find that I have to go through and flame the same area twice within a week or so.  That way any plants that are making a comeback get hit again and are pretty much goners.  
Again, like Jen said, my main weed problem is in the spring.  I'm pretty much weed free (unless already established/mature) by June.  Nothing is going to grow from seed in the summer unless we get consistent monsoon rain, and that hasn't happened for the last three years here.

I also like the idea of cooking the weed seeds with the torch.  If I do see a weed in flower, I make sure to bbq the flower/seed.

The bad part.  The first time I used the flame thrower, I set a windmill palm on fire (holy smokes the dry stringy trunk lit up like a rag soaked in gasoline after getting a little close to it).  It was in my urban front yard, rock all around it, and I had the hose nearby that was already pressurized so I was able to put it out almost immediately.  I did have a black trunked palm tree for a year, lol.  It was fine, and only a few of the lower fronds suffered heat damage.  

I also made the mistake of using it near my wood chip mulch once.  Got a little too close to the woodchips, must have not noticed some chips got heated enough to smolder, fifteen minutes later I see smoke coming from behind my garden shed, and sure enough a few square feet of wood chip mulch was burning steadily.  I lost a newly planted female pistachio, and almost lost my shed.  
I do not use the flame thrower anywhere near my wood chips anymore.  It's just too hot and dry here.

 
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I've got a 1 million BTU torch from Harbor Freight that I use for all sorts of things.  Tried it for a brief moment on weeds growing in the cracks in the side walk.  Wasn't impressed.  My buddy says that to be effective in the garden, you need to use it when the weeds are very small.
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