Gardening: Matt James shares his tips for removing weeds
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Using chemicals to get rid of weeds in your garden can have an impact on the surrounding environment. Natural methods are always a preferable option, but what can you use? While many experts claim to use household items such as salt, white vinegar and washing up liquid, some experts recommend “flame weeding” or “flaming”.
It may sound daunting but flame weeding, or killing weeds using heat, is a great way to get rid of the pesky plants without damaging the surrounding environment.
However, the correct equipment needs to be used properly for this to be effective.
Flame weeding is where you briefly put a flame over a weed, destroying the plant’s tissues just enough to kill them.
You don’t burn up the weed, just destroy its plant tissue so it dies.
The natural weed killer will see the plants start to wilt and then eventually die.
Kate Garland, horticultural specialist at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension said the method works well in “certain situations”.
She told Bangor Daily News: “It works really well in certain situations.
“It can work really well on young [weed] seedlings, [on] gravel driveways or walkways free of organic debris that’s flammable.”
But some weeds, such as perennials, are more resistant to the method as they will likely regrow from the roots left in the soil.
Perennial weeds could need several treatments but eventually – if you are persistent – they will die.
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Sonja Birthisel, postdoctoral research associate at the University of Maine said it “kills the cell on the above ground portion of your weeds.”
She added: “Some species are more resistant to death by heat than others.
“If you have perennial weeds you might need a little bit higher propane dose or go back over it multiple times.”
However, one of the best aspects to using the flaming method is how efficient and fast it is.
Ms Garland explained: “It can be pretty quick.
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“If you have a cropping system where you have pretty small seedlings and you can catch them early and do it frequently, it is a fast way of weeding.”
The method works best on annual weeds which are just a couple of inches above the ground.
Flame weeders are also great on weeds growing in between concrete cracks, between paving slabs, in lawns, around barriers and fences.
But, it’s best not to use them during a particularly dry spell and it can be hard to use a flame weeder around other plants.
In this case, it’s best to use it after you sow seeds but before they sprout.
Ms Birthisel said: “I would recommend doing it before you plant, or using it very carefully between plants or in the rows between your beds if you want to control later season weeds that way.
“Just know that there’s a danger of getting that flamer too close.”
She also warned against using it on poison ivy, like English ivy which can be found in gardens across the country.
“When you burn poison ivy, it can get those noxious compounds up in the air,” she explained.
“People can inhale them and have really nasty issues with getting poison ivy in [their] lungs.”
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