January 10, 2011

The Feng Shui of Weeding

I love my hand held weed torch.  I know that gardeners are intimidated by these, fearful of burning all the shrubbery and the neighbor's garage in a single afternoon.
Truly, there are horror stories involving torches, fire departments and blackened front yards.  You gotta use caution.

But weeding with it is a snap.  I find it's part of a whole-garden feng-shui approach to mastering the earthly elements: we've learned how to use earth and water, and even metal and wood in our gardens; I think fire also has its place.  

It's probably easier to tell you what NOT to do with a flame weeder:

1. Never fire up the torch and go after weeds on a windy day.  Don't do it on a breezy day.  On gusty days don't even go into the shed where you store it.

2. Never torch weeds during a drought.  Do it only when the ground is wet.  Wait for the day after a rain.  A calm dewy morning is good.

3. Don't try to finesse the weeds under a low evergreen.  The edges of your Birds Nest Spruce will singe if you try to get those weeds hiding just under its needles and it will look worse with brown edges than it did with weeds poking out.  You need to believe me on this.

4. Don't wear sandals. Sometimes you have to step on little smokers left behind right after you make a pass over a weed.  Watch for them.

5. Don't take your eye off the flame to converse with neighbors, admire the flowers, or watch the traffic going by.  Watch the flame.

6. Don't flame your new transplants.  Like Round Up, the torch will kill any plant it touches, including the precious seedlings you've been nursing along and just set out yesterday.
    Heed those simple rules, and using it is easy.  It's non-chemical, no worries about poisons.  No stooping, kneeling or stabbing.  Just a gentle three second pass of the flame over the weed, then move on, wand it over the next offender, and move on again.  One-two-three, pivot, move, watch for a smoker, step on it.  Repeat process.  All while standing upright.

    Some fleshy weeds like purslane or delicate leaves like oxalis will curl and shrivel right before your eyes during their three second fire bath.  Big nasty ones with tough leaves won't look like they've been affected at all, but the next day they'll be crisp.  It works best on stone paths, pavers, gravel driveways, but I've used it in the wet mulch of my planting beds too, with care.

    You have to keep using the flame torch during the growing season.  Some of the burned weeds grow back -- nature is amazing -- and for some of the tap rooted ones a charred skeleton is the trigger for growth. They need repeated convincing.  And of course new weeds sprout when you go back in the house.

    Really, the fear factor wasn't so bad once I got the hang of it.  Just remember: wet day, no wind.  Three second pass, move on.  Watch behind you and step on anything with a little curl of damp smoke.

    And always recycle the spent canisters.


    1. Laurrie, This has been on my wish list for a while - I think it would be great for my gravel driveway and stone paths - thanks for the tips.Wet day, no wind...

    2. I have never even thought of using such a tool. I would probably set the neighbors lawn on fire and burn the bottom of my feet.

    3. This is new to me and intriguing...As we live in a state of continual drought I probably shouldn't ask for one!

    4. I've never heard of this before, Laurrie, but it certainly makes sense. I wonder if it would work on poison ivy--that's one weed I'd definitely like to torch!

    5. Great idea. My landscape does this on occasion.He actually was the one to bring it to my attention.

    6. I've seen people burn sand-burr patches but they didn't have a nifty hand-held torch like that.

    7. Thanks, everyone, for visiting. Since none of you has used a flame weeder, I hope this info was a help!


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