Got weeds which are hard to dig out and eliminate? Especially the ones in patios and walkways? The Mini Dragon Propane Torch is the perfect tool for this.
You can’t dig them out. Sure you can get the top part and maybe part of the root if you are lucky. For the shallower rooted weeds you might be able to get the whole root, but be sure to do this at the right time.
There are also other methods. Boiling water, either by itself or with a concoction of salts, vinegars and other kitchen staples added can be used to varying levels of effectiveness.
However the other option is to cook the weeds with a concentrated flame. And that’s where the Mini Dragon Propane Torch comes in.
Let’s have a look at how you flame weed with a weed torch and why you should add one to your weed control tool set.
How it works
Take some greens and place them in a pot or wok or frying pan on your stove and the moment you add heat they will wilt. The weed torch works in a similar way, wilting your weeds.
It actually boils the water in the cells of the weed. When the water boils it explodes the cells and causes the plant to atrophy. You can see this happen before your eyes. Many weeds can’t survive if you kill off the top growth and if the root gets cauterized at the top.
It used to be a common tool to use but when herbicides became popular in the 1960s, weed torches all but disappeared. They are making a resurgence now with the concerns about and in some regions outright bans on using herbicides.
There are different sizes of weed torches. The size you buy will depend mainly on how large the area is that you will be torching.
With something that uses an explosive gas and a hot flame, you want to purchase from a reputable manufacturer. Avoid the really cheap knockoffs as these may not be properly safety tested and may not comply with your country’s and region’s safety regulations.
Here are my recommendations:
- Large area: Red Dragon BP 2512 SVC 400,000 BTU Weed Dragon Backpack Propane Vapor Torch Kit with Squeeze Valve
Keep in mind that these do not come with a filled propane tank (the one for large areas comes with an empty 10lb tank). The small propane cylinders (used for camps stoves and plumbing torches) are available locally and the larger tanks are also available locally and can be refilled or exchanged for a full one at a gas station that sells propane.
Preparing the area
Dry leaves, twigs and mulch will cause a fire if the weed torch comes in contact with them. The first step in preparing the area is to sweep up and pick up any combustible materials. If you can’t sweep them up (such as a garden bed that is covered in mulch) then you should NOT use the weed torch in that area.
You can also wet down areas that you want to protect from the flame. Keep in mind that it requires quite a bit of water to thoroughly soak an area and you still need to be careful as you flame weed.
Remove anything that will melt as well. While the recommendation is to have a hose nearby to extinguish any materials that catch on fire, don’t melt your hose especially if it is rubber!
And keep in mind that flame weeding near a wood structure is very risky! Fences are the most common area to weed because that is where weeds usually grow and are hard to remove.
Here’s a perfect example of a fence and then some twigs (used as mulch on a path) that needs some prep work.
You can use a large piece of sheet metal as a shield, but that can be unwieldy and not everyone has a piece handy. So instead simply use your garden spade as a shield, holding it vertically between the weed and the area you want to protect. This also works if you need to flame weed next to a plant you want to keep. As you can see I’m using the spade and have also cleared away the twigs.
Make sure to keep pets and small children away from the area. Using a weed torch does look interesting for children especially, but you don’t want them standing too close or distracting you as you flame weed. Keeping them indoors is safest.
Preparing the gardener
Yes, you need to be prepared too!
Wear appropriate clothing and footwear. This is not the time to wear flip-flops and shorts, regardless of how hot it is outside in the garden. Any errant flames touching exposed skin can cause third degree burns and likely require you to head for the emergency room. Sometimes when you hit the weed with the torch, steam will escape violently from the moisture in the weed.
So wear long pants and closed shoes. You could always wet your pants (no, not that way – with water!) and shoes for more protection.
Also wear a pair of gloves. It is too easy to forget that the shaft and end of the weed torch get really hot and accidentally touch it. Ouch!
Also you may need to move something away which is getting too hot and gloves will insulate your hands from getting burned.
Best time to flame weed
I would recommend picking a cooler time of day to flame weed. Not only will you be more comfortable seeing as you are wearing long pants, shoes and gloves but also you lessen the risk of setting something on fire.
The best time may be first thing in the morning. The morning dew (if the dew point is reached overnight) will have wetted the surrounding plants and ground. There will be less risk to lighting these on fire. The weeds will also have more water on them so weeding may take a bit longer, but making the task safer should be your first priority.
Avoid rainy days for obvious reasons. The flame will likely not go out but weeds will be wet and it will take longer to dry them out.
Young weeds are going to be easiest to kill, so catch them as they emerge. Older weeds will have more water stored inside and be tougher, especially the roots will be bigger. One tip for older weeds is to pull or cut off most of the top growth so you are just left with a stub of the stem/leaves with exposed root top that you can then cauterize and hopefully stop the growth.
Let’s flame weed with the mini dragon propane torch!
1. Screwing on the propane cylinder
Once you are ready to start, remove the protective caps on both the propane cylinder and the torch orifice. Keep both clean when the caps are off. Any dirt getting into either connection can cause the seal to fail and leaks to occur, which you don’t want.
Very carefully screw the cylinder on. This is where you need to use finger tip feel to make sure you don’t cross thread the connection. If the cylinder doesn’t turn easily, unscrew completely and try again. I find that the cylinder and torch must be held straight to each other for the cylinder to screw on properly. Don’t force it!
Once the cylinder is screwing on smoothly, tighten it finger-tight. Don’t overtighten it with any tools as that can damage the connection.
You should test the connection for leaks at the cylinder connection and at the torch valve.
DON”T USE A MATCH OR OPEN FLAME TO TEST! I can’t stress that enough. Sounds obvious but you’d be surprised at how many people test it this way.
Mix up some dish soap and water gently so that you don’t get too many large bubbles. Use a paintbrush or old toothbrush to brush the soap mixture all over the connections as shown in the red circled areas here:
Wait a few seconds and see if any larger bubbles form. If they do form, you have a leak and need to check your connections. Try wiggling the propane cylinder gently as it may not be tight enough. Or some dirt or other material may have gotten into the threads and the cylinder didn’t screw on all the way.
Fix the problem before you even consider lighting the weed torch! Unscrew the cylinder (make sure the valve is closed!), clean and attach again.
Then test again with the soapy water until you are sure that there is no leak.
One downside of the design of the small torch I have is that there is no easy way to hold the torch upright and you should always ensure the propane cylinder stays upright for safety reasons. I’ve found that if I place the cylinder in a raised flower bed or planter that this is a good height for the torch wand.
Another option would be to have a hook on a wall or from an overhead beam that you can hang it from.
But make sure that the torch end can’t touch the wood of the bed/planter and rests on a concrete or stone surface without any flammable materials close by.
And don’t rest it anywhere or hang it up while it is lit! It needs to stay in your hands the whole time it’s lit.
2. Lighting the torch
Now you are ready to light the weed torch and start weeding!
- Hold the torch by the padded handle.
- Have the starter ready (I usually store it in the pocket of my pants).
- Turn the gas regulator knob an 1/8 of a turn.
- Hold the starter at the tip of the torch and squeeze a few times until the gas lights (keep your hands away!)
- Adjust the flame to the right size (you really don’t need a large flame but if you have it too small the flame will be extinguished easily by a slight breeze)
If the flame goes out while you are weeding, turn the gas off immediately and wait for the gas that accumulated on the ground to dissipate before trying to light the torch again.
Under no circumstances light the torch when there is a collection of gas pooling around the area. Otherwise KABOOOM!!
3. Torching those weeds!
Now you are finally ready to start torching those pesky weeds. Sweep the torch over the weeds, holding it an inch or so above the ground. If you hold it too close you could extinguish the flame.
Keep in mind that any breeze could push the flame towards you, so hold the torch a good foot or more from your feet and legs. If it starts getting too breezy, STOP – it is simply too dangerous to continue if you can’t control where the flame is going.
Move backwards as you weed. This way you are not having to step on the area that you have already flame weeded.
If you need to torch close to a plant that you don’t want damaged, use the shovel or sheet metal to protect the plant and keep the torch on the other side.
You can spot weed lawns to get rid of dandelion and other deep rooted weeds. Don’t do this though if your lawn is dormant in summer, in other words turned brown. You will start a grass fire which can get out of hand very quickly!
Keep in mind that the first application of torching may not completely kill the weed. You may have to go back in a few days and hit the weed again with a brief burst of flame. Some persistent weeds may need flaming and treatment with boiling water as well. Try a few things to see what works as every situation is different.
The weed torch is a more expensive purchase for your garden but it will save you lots of time battling the weeds that grow up between patio stones or flagstones or in the cracks of your driveway. Consider adding it to your weed destroying tool chest and torch those pesky weeds!
Products recommended in this post:
- Small area: Red Dragon VT 1-32 C 25000 BTU Mini Weed Dragon Propane Vapor Torch Kit
- Medium area: Red Dragon VT 2-23 SVC Weed Dragon 100,000-BTU Propane Vapor Torch Kit
- Large area: Red Dragon BP 2512 SVC 400,000 BTU Weed Dragon Backpack Propane Vapor Torch Kit with Squeeze Valve
Wishing you safe torching with your new weeding tool!
If you enjoyed this article, have something to add or have any questions, please leave a comment below.
Wishing you all the best!
Tranquil Urban Homestead, Victoria, BC