Fighting Fire with Fire: An Organic Holocaust of Weed Control


As you can clearly see, dear reader, I am at my wits end when it comes to keeping my weeds at bay. I have an extremely strict rule that not a drop of any chemicals shall ever be added anywhere on my property. As a result, I have to get somewhat creative when it comes to dealing with pests and weeds.

It’s all worth the efforts mind you. Knowing that I can maintain a safe environment using older and more natural methods, all while protecting my pets and loved ones from becoming a tumor-ridden cancer cesspool, gives me great comfort and pride.

That said, there are some inherent issues with living the granola-crunching-hacky-sacking organic life. Weeds are most definitely one of these issues. Another would be hacky-sack injuries but that’s a different post. My worst enemy in the weeds department is the dreaded Spotted Spurge (or Euphorbia Maculata).

Fighting Fire with Fire 01b_Spotted Spurge or Euphorbia maculata
Spotted Spurge (euphorbia maculata) via

I cannot begin to emphasize how much I loathe this plant.  It’s sticky white sap that never washes off is one of the worst ever and it seems to grow everywhere in the yard. As soon as it pokes out it’s evil tendrils from the earth it begins dropping seeds. The more spurge you pull, the more seeds are dispersed. THE most invasive species of weed I’ve ever encountered in my long life. Well, this and crabgrass of course. Don’t even get me started on crabgrass!

I’ve made some mistakes in the past when dealing with weeds. Like when I created some lovely gravel pathways only to have to redo them all. I’ve also spend a great deal of man hours creating a kick-ass flagstone patio, also the wrong way when it comes to weed control.

No matter what I’ve tried, the weeds seem to always come back even stronger. It always begins small and benign. Tiny adorable sprouts of promise that trick me into thinking that this year will be better.

Fighting Fire with Fire 02_The attack begins
The cute lie.

I can handle this little bit of greenery. Gives the yard some character and life doesn’t it. I’m not so anal retentive that I can’t allow for minor imperfections. After all, isn’t that what nature is about? Releasing control and realizing that in doing so you can experience true beauty?

But then it creeps in a little bit more. Usually while my back is turned.

Fighting Fire with Fire 03_Slowly they come
Getting stronger…

And a little more…

Fighting Fire with Fire 04_Weeds growing stronger
…and stronger still.

And then the next thing you know…BAM!!! It’s completely taken over your yard, your life and your career. Some weeds will even go so far as to steal your girlfriend. Fact! The whole experience reminds me of the following quote:

“Apparently the vegetable kingdom in Mars, instead of having green for a dominant colour, is of a vivid blood-red tint. At any rate, the seeds which the Martians (intentionally or accidentally) brought with them gave rise in all cases to red-coloured growths. Only that known popularly as the red weed, however, gained any footing in competition with terrestrial forms. The red creeper was quite a transitory growth, and few people have seen it growing. For a time, however, the red weed grew with astonishing vigour and luxuriance. It spread up the sides of the pit by the third or fourth day of our imprisonment, and its cactus-like branches formed a carmine fringe to the edges of our triangular window. And afterwards I found it broadcast throughout the country, and especially wherever there was a stream of water.”

-H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds

Fighting Fire with Fire 05_Then it turns into The War of the Worlds
My weeds as seen by H.G. Wells

Please forgive my literary segue here. You see, when trying to photograph these weeds in full attack mode, my cell phone camera went all cray cray and somehow inverted the greens to reds. I can only assume that the weeds had released a noxious pollen-laden gas to infiltrate my technology, copy my contacts list and eventually steal my identity (surely as a way to steal my girlfriend). Just because one is paranoid does not mean that “they” aren’t out to get you!

So, being the complete and total nerd that I proudly am, I immediately thought of the above passage from The War of the Worlds and have now subjected you to my delusions.

Where was I? Oh yes, more terrestrial affairs…

The above (albeit red) photo of weeds typically occurs two to three times a year. Just to pull a small section of weeds while preserving the gravel takes hours. The below image is from about two hours of pulling.

Fighting Fire with Fire 06_Pulling the weeds takes hours
Barely a dent.

My triannual task of Sisyphus is never ending. By the time I reach one end of the yard, I have to begin again at the other end. Weed barriers definitely help to slow the process quite a lot, but the spurge and crabgrass always make their way back eventually. The former due to it’s invasive seed dispersal system and the latter because nothing blocks crabgrass. Nothing.


So, now we are all caught up yes? And I’m sure that you are no stranger to weeds as no gardener ever is. I could take the easy way out and drop some death juice made by Monsanto, but that’s no way to live or treat the planet now is it? No, it isn’t.

Last year when I would pull a section of the spurge, I began deploying a hazmat-like methodology of sweeping up the surface dirt to capture as many teeny tiny seeds as possible. Very time consuming, but it seemed to reduce the weeds return the following season. Not stop it, mind you, just slow it down a bit. I would then throw them into my fire pit to ceremoniously destroy them utterly.

Which got me thinking. Why bring the seeds to the fire when I can bring the fire to the seeds? But how can I do this without dropping napalm on everything in the yard? I then recalled seeing some videos of farmers burning their spent crops as a way to both fertilize the soil as well as save time. They used some sort of torch to do so. To the Google machine!

After a few short searches I found my weapon of choice (admittedly overkill).

The Red Dragon VT 1/2-30 SVC 400,000 BTU propane vapor torch kit with squeeze valve!

Fighting Fire with Fire 08_The Red Dragon
Enter The Red Dragon!

Red Dragon VT 2 1/2-30 C 400,000-BTU Propane Vapor Torch Kit
How bad ass does that sound? It also reminds me of the movie The Christmas Story and the protagonists dream of owning a “Red Ryder carbine-action, two hundred shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time”.

Only in this instance, I won’t be shooting my eye out! Merely burning down my house, my neighborhood and my precious facial hair etc…

So it goes.


I can’t properly describe the immense pleasure I receive while laying waste to every weed in my yard with this mighty hot death machine. My burden of weed pulling has now become an exciting jubilant task of sheer joy coupled with maniacal rage and vengeance. I shit thee not when I say I downloaded Wagner’s Flight of the Valkyries during the first wave of attacks. Seriously, I get very involved in my projects. Much to the fear and confusion of my neighbors. So what, big deal. To oneself be true.

I’ve made this video to help you get into my same mindset and I offer you a preemptive and resounding you’re welcome! I’ve personally watched this a dozen times and it just seems to get better.

And for those not so into drama and excitement (boy are you in the wrong place!), here’s the same video as shot. Boring…

Not quite as exciting huh?

I feel like now would be a good time to responsibly warn you about the possible side effects of wielding a massive flamethrower attached to a large tank of propane gas. If you do go the route that I have laid before you, be certain to take all the proper safety precautions when dealing with explosives and open flames. Another tip would be to have a hose turned on and ready to go within four feet of the area you are working on. I also pre-soaked many of the beds that had mulch and dry organic material around the paths as a deterrent for any stray man-made wildfires. Worked like a charm, but never get too comfortable that you would forgo safety. I’m a professional though and have some leeway to jam Wagner super loud and laugh manically while dropping napalm.

Believe when I say that I know first-hand how easy it is to get caught up with the sheer awesomeness of this device. You also don’t need to burn the weeds to a cinder as I have in this video. I did it for emotional and psychological effects and to strike fear into the heart of the weeds. But you only need to sear them a bit in order to have them perish. Again, less exciting and dramatic. Gardening without drama and danger is not good gardening! My fruits and veggies have the taste of excitement and flair because all of my plants never know what to make of me and are always on edge. Second fact!

It’s also not a permanent solution*, the weeds will grow back again. Thank goodness! Now I’m excited when I see weeds. A chance to break our my Wagner and get medieval on their ass! I’ll take it! Quite the flip flop from my previous weed dread isn’t it? The weeds will reduce greatly every time you use it as the seeds will become less and less prevalent throughout the yard. A thinning of the herd if you will.

Here’s some shots a few weeks later to give you an idea as to how bad ass this flamethrower is.

Order has once again been returned to my domain. Order and fear. Just the way I like it. I’m like the Darth Vader of gardening and I find your lack of flamethrower to be disturbing. I’ll continue to lay down weed barriers and thick mulch layers as I complete my paths and definitely on the beds (fire bad on the plants you love), but having this will save me hours of labor and add an element of excitement to a once troublesome task.

*Great Gods of Gardening!! I just realized that I’ve used the words “permanent solution” and “holocaust” AND mentioned Wagner all in the same post. Purely coincidental I assure you!! I am a good gentile I promise you!


36 Replies to “Fighting Fire with Fire: An Organic Holocaust of Weed Control”

  1. Totally brilliant and fun solution to your problems. Be careful you don’t end up burning your house down. My Dad is a retired fireman. He often does things like this to their property and their burn piles. Not a year has gone by where he hasn’t set another tree on fire or something else he didn’t expect to. I think he does it on purpose come to think of it.

    But seriously, way to subvert your nemesis in to something fun.

    1. As reckless and insane as I come off, at the end of the day I am honestly one of the safest and most cautious people I know. Plus, I was almost an eagle scout (I dropped out right before because I discovered that girls in fact didn’t have cooties) so I’m no stranger to fire danger.

      Also, do yourself a favor and watch that slo-mo video a bunch of times. I can’t seem to stop watching it. Death from above!!

  2. Very good James – been thinking about this method for a while now but my biggest weed problem is dandelions on the lawn. Fire no good unless I deliberately want to pursue some manner of scorched earth policy…

    1. I’ll bet there’s a small part of you that would love the scorched earth policy isn’t there.

      Dandelions would be tricky I’d imagine. At least with grab grass on the lawn they tend to clump together so you can cut them way back and plant more grass seed to out compete them.

      I reckon the best thing would be to stay on top of getting them out before they go to seed, but those seeds travel far don’t they.

  3. I use salt on my gravel but have considered flames. After all, going down in flames has such an appeal throughout the ages. Better them than I in this instance. Never chemicals – they are for the Wusses of the world.

  4. I am so with you on the weed problem. We won’t use chemicals either–too many fur kids. You read my post on crabgrass? We have the damned spurge, too. Last summer was so hot and dry, we could have been arrested for using a flamethrower (ha–who am I kidding–the cops don’t care what happens in our neighborhood!) Your flamethrower looks like a blast!

    1. I don’t think I read that one, send the link! Yes, the spurge! We hates it!

      I would think that the police would avoid a weirdo with a flamethrower. Save it for the firemen. It is a little too much fun to use. I must keep myself in check. Maybe turn down the Wagner a notch. Maybe.

    1. That’s a good point. And a thought that hadn’t escaped me. My reaction is purely based on the hundreds of hours spent in making pathways and flagstone patios. I’ve turned to the dark side but in my defense those weeds aren’t paying the mortgage 😉

      And yes, it’s from the movie Commando. Or Predator. If it bleeds, we can kill it.

  5. I’m not sure what impressed me most about this post. Was it (1) Your decision NOT to use any kind of poison, or (2) Your obvious talent for creating a great place to drink beer or (3) The flame thrower.

    Um…I reckon beer wins. Again.

    1. I think you’ve just come up with the theme for my next party! Everyone gets drunk and has a flame thrower and tries to find out which of us has the vile of poison. A trial by fire! What’s the worst that can happen? “I think Kevin has the poison in his back pocket *hic-burb*… *ssffwoosh-sizzle*, oh I guess not. Better call an ambulance.”

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