Video Clip: Custom-made Flame Weeder from Vegetable Farmers and their Weed Control Machines


Vegetable Farmers and their Weed-Control Machines [DVD]. V. Grubinger and M.J. Else. 1996. University of Vermont Extension. Available for purchase at (verified 31 Dec 2008).

This is a Vegetable Farmers and their Weed Control Machines video clip.


Tom Harlow, Kestrel Farm. Westminster, VT.

Audio Text

This is a flame weeder that I use, that Paul Harlow bought five or six years ago for about five or six thousand dollars, it runs on vapor rather than liquid. It was custom made in Germany to fit the 4 ft wide beds that we were planting at that time. We use it for raised beds for carrot and parsnips mainly. It’s used for carrots and parsnips on a stale seed bed which gives us at least a 50% reduction in weeds that need to be hand pulled. We make a stale seed bed, about a week to ten days later we roll the top of the bed and then we plant. Just before emergence of the crop we run the flamer over to kill small weeds a quarter to a half an inch in height. It works really well on broadleaf weeds, it does next to nothing on perennial weeds or grasses.

OK, this is a vapor system, it has four of these 20-25 pound tanks that go in this reservoir of water. This tank is a reservoir filled with water which is heated by a small burner, which keeps the water warm and keeps these tanks from freezing. Because we use the gas at such a high rate that the tanks would freeze up and gas is no longer available if it freezes up. There are shut-offs on each tank. There’s a shut-off inside the control panel, which shuts off the gas. There’s an electronic shut-off for the burners and the pilot. Six burners across this 4 ft space, producing I don’t know what kind of BTU’s but - very hot. In dry conditions, I can travel at about 6 miles an hour doing a very good job. Early in the morning if the weeds are wet with dew I usually shift down to about 4 miles per hour.

The disadvantage to this machine is that it’s set up for the 4 ft wide bed and it is not adjustable. The burners are all attached rigidly, they can’t be turned off, they can’t be adjusted to different angles, so we’re stuck with this 4 ft wide width. Since this was made, we’ve gone down to about a two foot wide bed which means that we’re using only, actually only using about half the burners.

Generally this uses about 32 dollars worth of gas per acre, which is 8 dollars per tank, which is what it costs us to fill these up. Under dry conditions we use a little less gas because we are traveling faster. In wet conditions we use a little more gas because we have to travel at a slower speed.

This video project was funded in part by the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (USDA).  

Published June 2, 2011

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