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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #1
greenthumbomaha
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Default Flame Weeding Pros and Cons

I solarized a new garden area last year and all looked dead when I planted in spring, but now a jungle of weeds replaced the sod. I did not till, just dug a hole big enough for a plant.


I just bought a flame weeder and tested on an area a little larger than the size of a car. The weeds were very scorched and the bare ground got a treatment to kill any weed seeds lurking on the ground. The area adjacent is full of weeds going to seed so I expect some to drift over and render this method questionable.



I am starting to have regrets with killing all the critters there - ants, rolly pollys etc. Any sage advice before I continue this practice?


- Lisa
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #2
PhilaGardener
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I've found that flame weeders are best for keeping bare areas bare. Once things have grown up, they are really hard to control that way. I bet some of those established weeds start sprouting from the roots after a good rain.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #3
brownrexx
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I have never used one but I agree that I would not want to kill all soil life on the surface. Too many beneficials there.

I till once a year in the Fall and use a heavy mulch of straw the rest of the time.

I know that some people say that tilling kills and disrupts soil life but it also exposes pupa to predators like birds so it's good and bad both.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #4
nbardo
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I find roundup preferable to fire... it doesnt bother the critters much, kills the root, and doesnt risk starting a fire by accident. You have to be careful when and how you spray to avoid drifting to things you dont want to kill, but with a good 2 gallon tank sprayer and a flat (straight line) spray nozzle this is pretty easy.


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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #5
Cole_Robbie
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How could there be any bigger pro than having a socially acceptable excuse to play with a flame thrower? I haven't tried it, but it sounds fun.

The only weed control that really works for me is black plastic much. The weeds overtake landscape fabric and old carpet in a month or two. I did spray roundup once in the early spring before I planted. That bought me about 2-3 weeks before the grass started coming back from seed. I did kill a lot of horse tail, but not much Johnson Grass, because it had not really emerged yet. Sneaky Johnson Grass knows it can wait until late in the spring to emerge, because it is sitting on a huge root system. My Johnson Grass roots look like crab legs. I am pretty sure they also overwinter tomato disease if I leave the black plastic mulch down over the winter.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #6
Worth1
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Burning weeds brush and dry grass is good for the soil.
Indians did it for untold centuries all across the Americas.
Fire is natures way not herbicides and pesticides.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #7
PureHarvest
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You have to consider the context.
Flame weeding is to control recently germinated seedlings after you have tarped or tilled the soil. Not to say a flame won’t kill mature plants, but that’s not the point of the technology.
As far as killing microbes, etc, you are not putting a dent in the population when you use the flame weeder as mentioned above. You are singeing seedlings, not fire bombing the soil.
The collateral damage from proper flame weeding is neglible compared to tillage which burns up organic matter quickly, and destroys soil aggregation and structure.
Organic corn growers are moving to flame to elimate all the soil disturbing cultivation steps they take for weed control. They are not burning down large weeds to prepare a seedbed, rather hitting young, newly germinated weeds.
Bottom line, proper flame weeding is a fast pass with the flame that cooks recently germinated weeds on what were very recently bare areas. Only a small fraction of the top inch of the soil is affected by the heat and does not ruin your soil fauna.

Last edited by PureHarvest; 4 Weeks Ago at 04:16 PM.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #8
bower
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This is fascinating to me because I have never used it nor seen it used, but when I read about it I thought "horrifying". PH your explanation is very sensible.
And Cole your rationale is just... AWESOME!!!
but I'd rather melt metal.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #9
bower
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At my friend's farm we use a wheelhoe - something I never heard of before I saw it there. It does a really good job between the rows but there's still hand weeding to do.


I learned about the importance of having good seed, sowing in a tight band (things like lettuce or cilantro etc). Wheel hoe takes all but the closest weeds to the band. And then to hand weed you just push back the crop with one hand and take out the close weeds with the other.



I actually love hand weeding. It's surprisingly good exercise for muscles in your legs. And many a great gossip session has been had between the weeds. Best case for weeding... bring a friend.
I also like to think of weeds as a green manure resource, as my dad taught me. If a place is too weedy, sow potatoes. Use the weeds to trench them. Next year it won't be so bad.



I wouldn't have much compost if it wasn't for weeds. In perennial garden an hour of weeding in may is worth ten hours in july. I'll also give a shoutout to mother nature (aka the birds) for bringing me interesting plants that I find when I'm weeding. Got some cool stuff that way, among the weeds.
Selective weeding is a fun way to garden. I have a ton of strawberries because of that.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #10
greenthumbomaha
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Thank you for explaining the mechanism, PH, very helpful and for everyone's input. I didn't get back to applying Dewitt Sunbelt timely after the ground was solarized. The landscape crew that was to help me tarp and border the new area moved on to cut and go mowing. I planted melons and squash. Something was better than nothing, and it got very overgrown. Too large an area to hand weed in the 100 degree heat! I can't imagine using Roundup in a large area where people, including myself, are growing food. I would have hired a tiller had someone been available, but I agree this is a better option given the location is not adjacent to buildings.

If anyone does want to try this, it isn't a roaring firepit flame, more of a swoosh flame like lighting a torch. Always have a hose at the ready (I am close enough to the water source.) I would never try this near a structure, this was in an open area. I had an old wood border and it didn't ignite.

I bought the model that has a trigger so you can walk around without turning the propane off, and a cart for the tank. It was not hard at all, but it is tedious, not a thrill but unique.

Ironic that a good rain was mentioned - Omaha set a record for the day of 6 inches yesterday! I guess a refilled tank of propane will be in order.

- Lisa
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #11
brownrexx
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Bower, I use a thick layer of mulch all summer but I also do not mind hand weeding. I know what you mean about getting exercise and I also enjoy the quiet time out in the garden listening to the birds.

All of my weeds also end up in the compost pile because I pull them before they go to seed.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #12
bower
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Mulch is a great thing too, especially where the weeds are out of hand or the scale of the operation isn't practical for hand tools.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #13
jtjmartin
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Excellent info on flame weeding! Fire & tomatoes - what a combo! I really want one of those Elon Musk flamethrowers for the pyro in me.

I also keep a heavy mulch down - here in the south I find its essential to keep soil temps and evaporation down.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #14
slugworth
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a few years ago I did the dakota fire pit in different spots in the garden for that deep down ground cooking.You get the extra added benefit of making your own charcoal if you are fond of charcoal bbq cooking.I have the propane flame thrower, but it is noisy.
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Old 2 Days Ago   #15
greenthumbomaha
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This garden was tarped last year, but uncovered in early spring thanks to the wind and my not replacing it. Photos are before , during, after - about a two week spread, two flames. The right most was primarily garlic covered in weed fabric so not as bad.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg flameweed final.JPG (74.2 KB, 26 views)
File Type: jpg flameweed inprogress.JPG (81.9 KB, 26 views)
File Type: jpg flameweed testing.JPG (81.1 KB, 26 views)

Last edited by greenthumbomaha; 2 Days Ago at 08:47 PM. Reason: My new strawberry area is in the upper right, replacing garlic.
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