Tackling weeds seems to be my main focus (or is it an obsession!) in mid-summer and I keep many different specialty weeding tools at hand to attack different weed situations.
One of the solutions is the Weed Dragon garden torch. I purchased the VT2-23SV Combo 100,000 BTU Vapor Torch Kit with the squeeze valve and handcart option about 8 years ago and use it every month during the summer to keep weeds from getting out of control. It is particularly useful along paved or gravel areas where other weeding tools can’t penetrate. I also use it along our fence and in some mulch beds.
Getting the Weed Dragon Ready to Fire Up
When you receive your Weed Dragon the wand will be fully assembled. All you need to do is inspect it to be sure all the parts are there and connected according to the enclosed instructions. I have the model with the squeeze valve. That allows me to control the flame setting (high and low) rather than only having one continuous full flame. This feature is particularly handy for spot weeding.
The cylinder dolly will need to be assembled. Simply attach the two tires and the nylon strap that holds the cylinder in place following the diagram that is included with the instructions. Then you attach a propane tank that you need to purchase separately. If you are like me and have a gas grill, you can get an extra tank from your local big box hardware store and then you have one for the grill and one for the Dragon. If either runs out at a critical time, you have a backup.
Connecting the Propane Tank
- Check to be sure the O-ring is in place on the nipple fitting of the Dragon wand.
- Make sure the supply cylinder valve is turned fully off and remove the protective plastic plug.
- Insert the nut/nipple fitting into the propane connection by turning counter clockwise. It is a little tricky to get it lined up just right so it screws in. Once it feels snug, don’t over-tighten.
- Test for leaks. I use a spray bottle with water and a few drops of dish detergent. This is sprayed onto the connection and when you slowly turn on the gas by opening the cylinder valve, you should not see any bubbling up of your soapy solution.
Get Ready to Burn
Take a few minutes to read the instructions very thoroughly–particularly the Safety Check List. Some of these items are obvious, but it’s good to remind yourself of all the hazards of working around an open flame. This isn’t a toy and it needs to have a good amount of planning and control before tackling any weeding job. I want you to READ the instructions, so I’m not going to copy and paste them here. But I will list a few top safety tips.
Safety Tips When Using the Weed Dragon
- Avoid loose clothing. Have sturdy shoes that give you good footing.
- Have a partner standing by with a garden hose ready to spray down any areas.
- Practice on a safe area like a gravel path with just a few weeds sprouting through. Get used to the squeeze valve and how the flame goes from the pilot light yellow to an almost invisible blue point.
- Don’t try to burn the weed into ash, but rather just “cook” the green leaves until they wilt away.
- Evergreens are extremely flammable so it’s best to avoid getting close to any conifers.
- Never flame poison plants, particularly poison ivy or poison oak. Smoke from these can be dangerous if inhaled.
- Mulch areas need extra caution (see the Cautionary Tale below).
- Always use a flint lighter to ignite the torch. DO NOT USE MATCHES OR CIGARETTE LIGHTER TO IGNITE THE TORCH. Have an ABC fire extinguisher at hand.
- Follow all the other safely tips in the instructions!
After feeling quite comfortable using the Weed Dragon for several years, my husband and I got careless. Typically, we work as a team. My husband wheels the cart and flames the weeds, while I stand by with a garden hose ready to put out any flames. But one day we flamed some weeds on a bank that was covered in mulch and it appeared fine for many hours afterward, but over night the unknown smoldering mulch caught fire and started down the slope toward our cedar shed. Fortunately we saw the smoke early in the morning when going out to get our newspaper. It had only burned mulch and one end of a landscape timber. BUT… it would have burned down our shed in a matter of hours had we not caught it.
The lesson here is that some materials don’t appear to be on fire, but they are actually smoldering below the surface. Mulch is particularly dangerous. We still flame our mulched areas, but we thoroughly water down the areas afterwards, and double check it carefully.
Let’s Get Started
Hauling the dolly around the yard is not difficult, although it’s a little awkward at times. It’s a little heavy to roll up any steep hill and it’s easy to get the long hose tangled in the wheels of the dolly. It’s best to slow down and move the dolly into position and then burn a smaller area, then move into the next position and burn that area, rather than trying to burn and roll at the same time. That’s one reason I like the squeeze valve. It helps to not have the high flame going as you move around.
Don’t try to over reach in each position. When in doubt, shut off the flame while moving the unit around any difficult areas and then relight it when you are in position.
Does the Weed Dragon Really Kill Weeds?
In short, yes. But you may not notice much difference until several hours later (or sometimes days, so don’t get impatient!).
The goal isn’t to fry weeds to a blackened crisp. Instead, you’ll simply heat weeds until the plants wilt.
The high heat “cooks” the interior of the weeds, destroying their ability to move water and nutrients from the roots to the leaves, and vice versa. By robbing the plant of nutrition, you’ve set the stage for a steady decline and, eventually, death. Depending on the size and root structure of the plant, this could take as little as a few hours or as much as several days.
Care and Storage
- Make sure the valves are tightly closed.
- Don’t store your Weed Dragon next to gasoline or any other combustible materials.
- Keep it dry and clean in a garage or shed.
- Before each use inspect the connections and test for leaks.
The website lists other uses for this torch such as melting snow and ice from sidewalks in the winter. I haven’t tried that but it seems like it might work, provided all the melt water can be removed so that it doesn’t just freeze up into a sheet of ice.
Made in the U.S.A
Lacrosse, Kansas is the home of the Flame Engineering company that manufactures this product. They warrant their products to be 100% free of defects.
I give the Weed Dragon a 5-shovel rating for its effectiveness. My use for over 8 years is a testimony to how well made it is. I do feel that it is a potentially dangerous tool and would caution anyone to be extra careful when using it. And obviously keep your children and pets away from it at all times.
Where to Buy It
You can find the Weed Dragon (as well as other torches) on the manufacturer’s website. The model tested runs $192 plus about $21 shipping to most areas of the U.S.
Amazon sells the Red Dragon VT 2-23 SVC 100,000 BTU Weed Dragon Propane Vapor Torch Kit (which includes the torch and squeeze valve). You can buy dolly separately. The total cost for all three is $158 with free shipping.
It appears that many online retailers sell the torch, but not the kit with the dolly. I really can’t imagine using this model without the dolly since the propane tanks are so heavy to haul around.
And now over to you – Have you tried a weed flamer? Any tips or recommendations? Let us know in the comments below.
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Disclaimer – All opinions expressed here are those of the author based on personal experience using the product.
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