Kill Weeds With Heat (cont)
By: Dan Hickey
Buying Tips: Features to Consider
Flamers are long metal tubes that carry gas to the flaming tip. The function sounds simple enough, but some products have features that make weeding both easier and safer.
Flamers are available in garden centers and in many gardening and homeowner catalogs. Expect to pay $50 to $90 for a flamer, which should include an extension hose and gas regulator. The gas tank and propane are sold separately. A 5-gallon (20-pound) tank costs about $20 to $25 in hardware stores, and fuel will be about a dollar a gallon.
For a flame that starts safely and easily, look for one that has an ignition switch. These devices send a spark directly into the torch. You simply turn on the gas, hit the switch, and you're on your way. Not all flamers are that easy to start, though. Many manufacturers provide flame-starting tools that you must hold near the gas outlet. These devices generate sparks that ignite the gas. They are simple and safe when used properly. Don't use matches because your hands will be too close to the flame when it ignites.
Some flamers attach directly to small propane tanks (14 to 16 ounces). This makes them easier to maneuver, but they burn for only 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Flamers attached to large tanks (like those used with barbecue grills) need an extension hose, that runs from the tank to the flamer. The hose length limits your range, however, and you must lug the tank around. Use a dolly if the tank is too heavy to move around comfortably, but make sure you strap the tank down securely.
Most flamers include valves that allow you to adjust the flame from low to high settings. How much fuel you use will depend on the size of the burning tip and your flame-adjustment setting. Typically, a 5-gallon gas tank will provide enough for 3 to 6 hours of burning. However, a flamer with a 3-inch tip at full throttle will burn 20 pounds of fuel (about 5 gallons) in an hour.
The Size of the Burning Tip
Tip size is important, and you should consider the type of weeding you want to do. For example, if you'll be working in tight spaces, you'll have much better control using a torch with a tip (burning end) that produces a fine flame. Remember, a 2,000°F flame will kill prized garden plants just as easily as it will kill unwanted weeds. If you need to manage heavy weed growth over a large area, buy a flamer with a 1 1/2- to 3-inch-diameter tip. Flamers with these tips, sometimes called torch bells, send out a wider flame band than other models, allowing you to cover more area in less time. For most home gardeners, flamers with 3/4- to 1 1/2-inch tips are best.