So have you heard of flame weeding but not really sure how to do it?

No problem, we have you covered, here are eight hot tips to get you flame weeding with the best of them!

Hot Tip # 1 – A smooth seedbed

If the surface of your seedbed is irregular, the flame will not reach all the weeds. Creating a smooth and level seedbed creates a wide surface area which the flames cover more easily.

Hot Tip # 2 – Make sure the flame from the torch touch the soil

Whilst flame weeding is not designed to “burn” the weeds, having the flames touch the soil ensures that the weeds are effectively heated at a high temperature. This high temperature (hot thermal) only needs to raise above 80 degrees Celsius (175 Fahrenheit) to be effective. The shroud around the burners is designed to facilitate this heat transfer.

Hot Tip # 3 – The stale seedbed technique

The stale seedbed technique works on the premise that you will inevitably have a flush of weeds when a bed is stirred whilst being prepared to be planted. The technique does not try to work against this natural occurrence, but rather work with it.

How to apply the stale seedbed technique

  1. Prepare your seedbed two weeks prior to intended planting day (remember you want your bed level)
  2. If you have dry conditions wet your soil to accelerate weed growth
  3. After one week of preparing the bed, without any tilling, directly seed your crops into the bed
  4. Flame weed a few days prior to the forecasted germination day of your crop, so that when your seeds have emerged they will have little weed competition.

Hot Tip # 4 – Less wind

The less wind the better when using your flame weeder. This concentrates the heat where it is intended and helps keep the flame lit. Generally, the ideal time to use the flame weeder is first thing in the morning. We have manufactured a stainless-steel shroud in our design which minimises wind exposure on the days it can’t be avoided. This can reduce fuel consumption by as much as 25% when compared to uncovered burners.

Hot Tip # 5 – Hear not burn

The exposure to high heat leads to overheating and eventual rupture of the plant tissue. It’s important to note that the weeds don’t need to be burnt to a crisp to be killed, this will only ensure that you waste time and fuel in the process. Following a pass with the Aussie Flame Weeder, you will notice the plant changes in colour and has wilted. If you squeeze the plant and notice your thumbprint indent onto the plant, you know your flame weeding has been successful.

Hot Tip # 6 – Right time, right weeds

Timing is everything, the right time to flame weed is when the plants are young (before the first true leafs have appeared)

  • Annual weeds can be flamed up to 5cm (2in) 
in height however to ensure the most efficiency with your time and fuel, flame earlier in the growing cycle
  • Perennial weeds and grasses should be removed by other means. The plants will often have extensive root systems that will regrow or in the case of grasses, a protective sheath that prevents the heat having a great effect without multiple passes.
  • Grasses and perennial weeds respond well to being heavily cut, watered and covered with black tarps
  • This process will work for most weeds however, the more tenacious perennial weeds will require a longer time covered (1-2 months depending on type).

The Black Tarp Tip:

The black tarps assist with a process called “occulation” which works by generating heat and humidity underneath the trap which causes dormant seeds to germinate and die as they have no sunlight.

Hot Tip # 7 Right needs, right seeds

  • Knowing your germination dates of certain plants is crucial to ensure flame weeding is done at the right time
  • If you flame weed once your seeds have emerged you have effectively ruined your crop and will need to start the process again
  • Keep notes of when you seeded the crop and mark in your calendar your expected germination days
  • A way many market gardeners ensure this timing is done right is by planting indicator crops.

How do indicator crops work with a flame weeder?

Indicator crops can be utilized in one of two ways;

Plant a crop you know has an earlier germination day than your main crop

Sprinkle a handful of the indicator crop seeds at the end of your bed containing your main crop

For example;

  • Tiny radishes indicate beetroot are about to pop up
  • Tiny beetroot tips indicate that the carrot crop is imminent
  • Carrots emerging indicate parsnip will not be far away

Tip for growing radishes:

Plant radishes into a bed that may have a few weeks of weeds growing in it, water the bed well. Immediately after watering, flame weed the entire bed. This technique works great with radishes due to their short germination period

Create a greenhouse effect with some small panes of glass

By placing a piece of glass over a small section of the seeded crop, you will have earlier germination in that area, indicating it’s time to flame weed the entire crop. If ever in doubt make a pass a number of days prior to expected germination – it’s better to burn early than burn late.

Hot Tip # 8 – Use due diligence

Be smart, don’t use the flame weeder when the fire risks are questionable and never during a day of total fire ban

Always keep a running hose nearby

Keep a working fire extinguisher handy

Do not operate if affected by alcohol or drugs, including prescribed medications

Do not allow children to operate

Wear appropriate safety equipment

Did you like these tips and want to keep a copy on hand for easy reference? We have turned these tips into a short Ebook that is free to download here