Weeding the garden is an ongoing process that never seems to end and, of all the jobs in the garden, appears to be the most time consuming. We can hoe at speedwell and chickweed, tug away at couch grass and excavate the tap roots of dandelions by hand but they still return, year after year, as part of nature’s way of letting us know who’s in charge.
Digging out weeds or hoeing are highly effective methods but very labour intensive and can cause aches and strains quite easily. A safe, organic alternative to manual weeding is flame weeding. The Sheen X300 Flamegun uses a flame torch to burn the top foliage of the weed which in turn dries out the plant and kills off the root below the surface.
I found the flamethrower very effective, easy and especially fun to use but I would caution it may not be for everyone. Compared with finely tuned modern appliances you might find it a little unrefined. Lighting the burner it is very simple but there is quite a bit of flame at first which might make you doubt yourself. However, once the kerosene heats (and vaporises) the burner settles down into a clean hot flame and the flamethrower becomes a much more civilised machine.
How it works
You can see the burner design in the photo above, this is a ‘cutaway’ unit to see the workings, the burner is fully enclosed in the working gun. The paraffin or kerosene is forced along the silver pipe, through the coil and back to the jet (the little brass fitting in the right hand side of the burner). The heat for the flame going through the coil turns the fuel into vapour which produces the hot, neat flame. The fuel is pressurised in the tank using a simple hand pump.
To start the flamethrower you need to soak the wick (the white material in the base of the burner) by briefly turning on the fuel tap. When the wick is lit through the back or side vents a flame will lick up around the end of the handle but this is normal. Once the fuel in the pipe is heated, the flame will begin to blast out the end of the burner and you can turn the fuel on again. Once it is going all you need to do is pump the handle on the tank every now and again to keep the pressure up.
When you have the Flamegun primed and started up simply pass the torch flame across the plant leaves until they are heated up, this dries out and destroys the plants cell structure which will prevent any further movement of sap. The plant will die back and after a secondary blast will disintegrate into a nutrient rich potash, replenishing and feeding the soil.
In the process of hoeing and hand weeding the soil is usually disturbed, bringing fresh weed seeds and new growth to the surface. The Flamegun passes across the surface, leaving the soil intact without exposing any potential new growth to the light. Some perennial weeds may require repeated treatments over a course of the season but like with most weeding methods they will eventually give up after 2 or 3 treatments.
Here’s a couple of tips that you might find handy:
- You may find the flamethrower heavy with a full tank, fill it half full until you get used to it.
- The fuel filler opening is small, get yourself a funnel to make filling it easier.
- Start it in an open space. If you turn the fuel on too early it will squirt a long flame so make sure there is nothing in the way.
- Make relatively quick passes on weeds and come back a week later when they have died down, trying to incinerate them in one go is fun but uses more fuel.
- Work with the wind behind you where possible especially when burning off dried weeds or leaves.
It can be used on beds and borders and is perfect for removing fungal growth and moss from patio and paving. We even use ours to de-ice the path on frosty mornings.
Once I got the hang of it I found the Flamegun quick and easy to use. I am likely to fire it up and have a quick walk around when I get home from work whereas spraying a weedkiller requires a lot more preparation. It is a tool I enjoy using and does keep the place looking tidy. When the larger weeds are cleared I can go over any new growth very quickly, a walk around the paths every month or so in the Summer should keep them neat and weed free.
The Sheen X300 Flamegun is a tried and tested alternative to chemical intervention and a genuine labour saving gardening tool making it a welcome addition to any garden shed.