The heat is on

The segment of the gardening population that loves landscaping gadgets will be excited to know that the NatureZap -- a thermogenic weed eradication tool -- is now on the market. It weighs about six pounds and looks like a large, metal cane with an electrical cord. Its business end houses a sharp, super-heating point which, when driven into the base of a weed, fries its root, disrupting the plant's ability to take up water and to store carbohydrates from photosynthesis.

"When you place a heated element into a weed's root, you set off a chain of events that kills the weed," NatureZap Inventor Jon Jackson explained in a recent news release. The gizmo takes about three minutes to warm up to its 400-degree operating temperature, and its users simply position the NatureZap over the center of the weed to be "zapped" and push down for three to eight seconds, depending on the size of the plant. The affected plants soon turn black and, in about a week, they'll wither away. Jackson's company, Global Neighbor Incorporated, is associated with the National Environmental Technology Incubator at Central State University, and Jackson is also the inventor of the NatureCut battery-operated lawn mower.

All in all, I think Jackson's heart is in the right place, but I must admit that I am not one of those gadget-loving gardeners. Initially, I wasn't thrilled about this rather unfortunately named product, but I do think it has its merits. For instance, it could be very handy for the severely arthritic gardener or for those who might ordinarily reach for the Sevin or Roundup at the first sight of a weed. If they reached instead for the the NatureZap, our honey bees and songbirds might be healthier, and our groundwater could be a little cleaner, too. (For what it's worth, a battery-operated NatureZap is also on its way.) What's more, although the NatureZap does require electricity -- which, alas, typically comes from those pesky coal-fired plants -- it still beats the ear-splitting, gas-powered weed whackers I hear all summer long. Even so, I'm old school, and I'll be hand-pulling and composting my weeds just as I always have.

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