A Bigger Burning Desire

LaVille and I have recently joined the weeding group working to maintain the WPA Rock Garden.  We meet between 9:00 and 9:30 each Thursday and park above the Rock Garden on the road that leads to the entrance to the zoo.  A finer group of volunteers you’ll never meet.  The task I have chosen is to attack the weeds in the paths with a torch.  Now the torch I use is the same one I use almost daily in our garden going after newly germinating moss, baby tears, and annual bluegrass.  Most of the weeds I toast are less than ½ inch high, so the small torch I use produces a small, concentrated flame that adequately bakes my prey.  (It’s the same torch I described in the blogs on the SPPC web site.)  Like I discussed before, the problem is that I have to bend over the weeds, and unless there is a breeze, the smoke rises up into my face.  I bob and weave about trying to avoid the smoke, but the days following a burning session are sometimes accompanied by irritated eyes.  I tried to solve this one day at the Rock Garden by wearing googles but was discouraged by the ridicule of my wife and the fear in the eyes of children walking the paths.

I just have to stop here and tell you what a fantastic place the Rock Garden is—thanks primarily to Daisy Mah who has made the garden so special.  The winding paths bordered by walls of granite boulders encompass plantings that are marvelous.  It is a joy to see adults with their kids wind through the garden.  Professional looking photographers seem always to be there.  Families have gatherings to celebrate occasions.  It is simply a happy place.

 Now, back to burning weeds:  Not only was the smoke in the eyes a problem, but I was pretty much exhausted after bending over for a couple hours.  And, of course, I always stunk of burned weeds afterwards.  My solution was to borrow a long torch from a club member.  I found this really worked well as the larger flame burned weeds probably ten times faster.  But also used gas ten times faster, and in 2 days I went through 2 tanks of propane gas.  I wasn’t too concerned because I was used to picking up tanks and garage sales and estate sales for no more than a couple bucks.  I went to the Davis Ace—no tanks.  I went to Home Depot—no tanks.  I went to Lowes—no tanks.  That’s when I found out that backpackers grab up these tanks as soon as they come in.  OK—Amazon—yes, but they’re over $11 each and would take a week to get here from the East Coast (No combustible gas aboard airlines.)  So I ordered a packet of 4—but just for use with my small torch in my own garden.

My new plan is to order my own bigger torch with a 10 foot hose that will connect to one of my 20 pound propane tanks used with the barbeque.  I’m going to lash it to a hand truck and roll it around the Rock Garden and hopefully eliminate all the weeds in the paths in a couple sessions.  I’ll add the results to this article after next Thursday’s session.

Weeks Later – I have to tell you that I am somewhat frustrated.  I can’t find any more weeds to burn in the paths for the Rock Garden, and it’s tiring dragging the hand truck with the propane tank attached through all the paths because there are raised steps involved.  But the good news is that I really love my new torch.  I no longer have to bend over with my small hand-held torch.  Smoke no longer rises up into my face.  The flame is much bigger and really hot.  If I can find the same model again on Amazon, I’ll picture it below.  It has a self-starter attached so I don’t have to carry around a flint starter.  Until you squeeze the handle, the torch stays lit with a gentle flame.  Then when you press the handle a roaring flame shoot out.  The size of that flame is easily controlled by the knob right near your hand. The 12 foot hose allows you to cover a big area without moving the tank.  Using a 20 pound tank is much much cheaper than using the small tanks that attach directly to the torch.  Plus you can always get the big tank refilled.  Good luck finding a small tank to buy when you need it.

The bad news is . . the chance that a reader of this article would ever need this torch is slim.  I can’t even use this torch on my own property.  Our lot is average-sized for homes built in the ‘70s and there is very little ground left where there’s no valued plant growing.  Then too, bark covers what is left.  I’ll probably take the torch out front and cook all the weeds growing the joints of the sidewalk and in the cracks of the poorly maintained asphalt of the street.  But other than that, my little torch is a far better choice for my personal weed problems.  But if you are fortunate enough to have a large property and unfortunate enough to have a huge weed problem, this is one honey of a tool for you.

Happy burning!

Stan, The Tool Man

P.S. My editor says I should mention that this is a tool only for use by responsible users who are careful enough not to burn down the State of California.

Plant Labels

I hope you are in the mood to add labels to your plants.  Do I have labels for you!  While laid up with a bum knee, I cut around 500 mini-blind labels.  I was surprised by the groans of disgust when I mentioned that the labels I was providing were perhaps coated with grease from hanging in a house for years.  So . . . I washed every label with soap and water.  You will find these labels will readily accept pencil, china marking pencil, or acrylic pen.  Once again, do not use Sharpie pens.  They will fade in 6 months.  Now if you have a special need for labels with a different length, let me know.  For example, I cut labels 2 ½ inches long with a hole in one end for LaVille.  She attaches them below an iris flower into which she has introduced pollen from another flower.  The label indicates the pollen donator variety on the top and the ovary variety recipient on the bottom.  Perhaps one day years from now there will be a new iris hybrid registered that will be named after one of our grandchildren.

Today, LaVille, a neighbor, and I traveled the Pence Gallery Garden Tour.  The primped gardens reminded me of the fact that our garden was on the tour last year.  That experience had a significant effect on our lives.  All of the work we did to prepare for that tour increased our love for our garden and gardening in general.  Months of effort created what we think is a beautiful place to visit.  Too insure that the garden is maintained, we have altered our travel schedule so that we are home during the hot summer months when plants can take a severe beating and weeds can take over.  The front yard has received more attention because we had allowed it to become too naturalized.

Now, believe it or not, I am going to suggest that you consider being on a garden tour of the perennial club.  It is a lot of work and can involve a financial investment, and investment is a good word to describe how the result is going to affect your lives for years.  You might say that it is too late to change your yard—that you have no time to make any changes in your landscape.  And that is exactly my point:  creating an enriched environment that you will enjoy the rest of your years is more than enough reason to make that decision for action now.  Besides . . . I would like to visit.

Stan, The Blog Man