I enjoyed Charles Kidder’s well- written article entitled “Chemical Weapons” in the July 2009 edition of the Crozet Gazette. The article was a wonderful overview of weed control in the garden, including ways to avoid using chemicals. However when reading the part about “flame throwers” I felt the need to clarify that aspect of weed control.
Heat is the key element here. These are implements that use flame to produce enough heat to burst cell walls by passing the flame over the plant, therefore the plant dries up and dies. It is not necessary to “burn up” the plant. For long-term effectiveness start using your flame weeder when the weeds are still small, when the weeds are easier to kill. Larger perennial weeds may need additional flaming to eliminate their presence, so start early in the season. These torches are perfect for patios, driveways, fencelines and open areas. There is a small handheld torch that can be used around desirable plants in the garden.
Use care with flame weeders. Choose the right size torch for the job, watch out for flammable materials, and use carefully around desirable plants. Do NOT use on poison ivy! They make great ice melters or charcoal starters, as well.