Fired Up Over Organic Weed Control

Posted by Jill Yanus on

Fired Up Over Organic Weed Control graphic with Chapin weed burner

In technical terms a weed is a plant that is out of place. For our purposes a weed is a weed: an unsightly, useless irritating low -level plant that infiltrates the landscape and has a tendency to multiply tenfold when you look at it wrong. They strangle and take over our lawns, flower beds, vegetable gardens and grow in the most unlikely places, like driveway cracks and paths. In the United States alone there are over 300 known common weeds which are tenacious, difficult to control or kill, are noxious, poisonous, and believe it or not, some are even edible!

From the beginning of time agriculture to home gardens have been battling weeds from choking out our plants and stealing nutrients, whether they are ornamental or edible. When I was in the landscaping business the number one concern for every homeowner was that weeds needed to be eradicated from their yard and garden. Of course, back in those days we had access to herbicides that today are no longer allowed because of how toxic they were coupled with the number of body parts that fell off while using them. For our discussion today we will be focusing on a form of organic weed control that rivals any other kind of organic weed control, (this one actually works), that landscapers and homeowners are now starting to embrace with Chapin’s Propane Weed Burner Torch!


weed control - spraying and pulling

Let’s Talk Weeds.

Out of the 300+ weeds that grow in the US it may feel like most of them are in your yard. I took an impromptu poll during one of my radio shows on the weeds that irritate them the most.

The answers weren’t surprising: Dandelion, Bermuda grass, Crabgrass, Purslane and Ragweed were the top five. We did have a couple of honorable mentions: Foxtail and Nutgrass.

All of those weeds are different and easily identifiable. In fact most species of weeds are distinguishable because they tend to be so aggressive they choke out the good plants stealing their nutrients while crowding them out. The thing that all weeds have in common is their leaf structure and this is important to know because even though propane is inexpensive, we want to maximize it which saves us money and most importantly, I don’t want you to burn anything down!


Leaf Cuticle.

breakdown of a leaf and its layers showing the leaf cuticle

Unlike the dead skin cuticle we find on our fingernails leaves don’t have fingers (surprised, right?) but they do have a cuticle on each leaf. A plant cuticle is important for its existence. It’s an ever so thin barrier that keeps the plant hydrated. A secondary reason is that the cuticle defends against disease and insect pests. Some cuticles are so elaborate they actually can clean the leaf from dust so photosynthesis can do its magic which , in this case, we don’t want.

The one love hate controversial weed is the dandelion. Some are so passionate about this monster of a plnt they get upset if you try to control it. You see, all parts of the dandelion are edible. Wine is made from the flowers, its bitter leaves are used in French salads and the roots can be dried and ground into flour. My question is “What sane person really doing all that?” I don’t know of anyone who is purposely cultivating dandelions. For me, they are weeds. For my radio audience they are weeds (the number one weed as polled by my radio audience). For you...weeds! The reason we are discussing dandelions is that on mature dandelions you can actually see the cuticle. It looks kind of shiny or waxy. This waxy cuticle is what we will be attacking to control them. And, on a side note nutgrass/nutsedge has got to be the shiniest of weeds which the cuticle is responsible for.


Annual vs Perennial Weeds - Dandelions and Crab grass

Annual vs Perennial Weeds:

Just like ornamental plants there are annual weeds which only grow for a season or two while perennial weeds grow all year. We’ll be learning later how to attack weeds but understand that annual weeds may get killed with one application but perennials may need a few to get them handled. But, once you do get them you’ll be happy as a dog with two tails because organic weed control is the cat’s meow.


Weed Abatement Season.

One of the feathers in my cap is that I was a weed abatement contractor responsible for nearly the whole geographical area of the largest county in the US. I had 20 tractors operating 24 hours a day discing fields with a crew of 60 cutting weeds to eliminate fire hazards. Weed abatement must be done before weeds become a fire hazard. Some weeds are perennial which means they just keep on growing. Others are annuals which mean they grow for a short time, then die off. Both, when they dry out, become part of a bigger picture called fire season. So technically we are fighting fire with fire before the fire season begins, eliminating them from becoming fuel.


Warning exclamation point

Warning: A dry weed is a fire hazard. NEVER torch a dry weed. Only torch weeds when they are still green.


If a Farmer Does It So Should We!

Organic farmers have gotten on the band wagon using economical propane burners to control weeds. Propane has chemical free properties which make it perfect to use.. Of course farmers are using tractors with huge booms slowly driving over their field which is impractical for landscapers and homeowners. But with Chapin’s Propane Weed Burner Torch supported by one pound propane cylinder (the kind you use for camping) – now that’s doable!


red line graphic

Safety First. As practical a weed burner torch is to use please be careful, it’s not a toy. The tip gets hot so don’t touch it and allow it cool down on a concrete surface before storing . Never use a weed burner on a windy day. Stay away from flammable objects like bark, wood, fuel, etc. Always wear gloves, long pants and eye protection. Read the instructions and heed the warnings that come with the unit. Following the advice creates a successful weed abatement experience.

red line graphic


Let’s Get Fired Up.

But wait! Before we fire up our weed control pyromania we need to discuss the science of why using a flame is used to control weeds in the first place now that we are armed with cuticle knowledge. The concept of burning weeds might not be what you think. It’s not about burning them to the ground to a smoldering heap of ash.

small weeds being burned by Chapin weed burners

Timing is everything. Torch when weeds are small.

The whole concept of weed management is to be on top of the weeds before they become fire hazards. Ironic, isn’t it? We’re controlling weeds with fire so they don’t become a fire hazard. When weeds get taller than 6”- 8” you might want to consider mowing them down to 2”– 4”, then rake up the debris. What’s left is a smaller more manageable weeds. Now the trick here isn’t to burn the weeds to the ground but instead to melt the cuticle or the waxy surface of the weed leaf. This is especially important when working around parts of the yard that can be flammable like native and high oil content plants.

Chapin weed burner models - 75111 and 75113

Technically a quick brush of the flame is all you need to melt the cuticle because at the very least with the 1lb propane cylinder you’re pushing out 50,000 BTU’s per hour which is about 1,000°. To cover more ground you can use the Heavy Duty Propane Weed Burner Torch with 20lb fuel tank which boasts 340,000 BTU per hour with a temperature of 1,850°. Immediately when this happens the weed stops photosynthesizing and it’s gasping for life. Within a day or so the weed becomes top dead but the root system is still alive albeit a little weaker. As soon as the roots recognize there’s no top greenage it’ll start sending off new shoots. Now is when the maintenance part of weed abatement comes in. You HAVE to torch the weed at or before the magical number of 2” of growth is apparent. Now you’ve really agitated the weakening roots and it may start again to grow....or not! Within a short period of time the weed will just give up because photosynthesis has stopped and the roots will just be too tuckered to grow any longer and you’ve done your organic due diligence of weed abatement with Chapin’s Propane Weed Burner Torch!


Nick Federoff TV|Radio

chapin sprayers lineup

Share this post

← Older Post