Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tapping trees!

We decided it was time!  The days have been warm and sunny, so we got all our maple syrup gear together and tapped our trees this week.  The sap was already running well, especially on the most southerly facing sides of our trees.  To get good sap flow we have noticed that it really makes a difference which side of a tree is tapped.  Given we are tapping here in our yard in the city, we have limited tree options (so we area again tapping our black walnuts and manitoba maples).  We also have  buildings and other obstructions keeping full sun off the trees, but last year yielded several litres of delicious finished syrup, plus loads of learning opportunities - we called it a success!  Funny though, living in southern Ontario, you never really know what the spring weather is going to be like - for example, tomorrow, there is an unexpected snow storm blowing in.  But this is March and the weather can still change every day.  We are hopeful that this snow will melt quickly, and the days will warm up again by the end of the week...we'd like to get back to tapping!

There are lots of great books and websites giving details instructions on how best to tap trees.  Better yet, ask someone locally who has done it (or follow along while they are tapping) to learn hands-on.  We offer a few basic tips that are geared toward the small-scale novice home based tree tapper:
  • ideally, tap the south side of your trees for the best running sap
  • sap runs when day times are between 0-10 degrees C, and night times drop to just below freezing
  • tap above a thick root or below a strong branch
  • tap healthy trees (stay away from hollow or diseased trees)
  • tap at least 6 inches away from last year's tap hole
  • tap approx. 3 feet up from the ground
  • when drilling use a 7/16 inch drill bit and drill tap hole on a slightly upward angle
  • clean out sawdust from tap hole before inserting spile
  • some trees that can be tapped include birch, black walnut, sugar maple, manitoba maple 
  • black walnut syrup is made from a ratio of 60:1 (60 litres sap to 1 litre syrup)!
  • sap can be collected in food grade pails or containers, but should be kept cold until boiling time
  • sap will run for several weeks (4-6 weeks) in a good year
  • boiling down takes many many hours, and is best done outdoors do to the high moisture content that is evaporating from your sap (it will make your kitchen quite humid)
  • invest in good spiles and hooks, but you can rig up plastic pails instead of sap buckets (if you are on a shoestring budget) - but use some kind of filter or screen to catch residue falling into your sap


  1. Great post! We're planning on tapping our Manitoba Maples this year for the first time- our temps were great for it last week- but this week back to below zero during the day- so I suppose it'll have to wait for a little bit yet. I'll keep your tips in mind when do drill the hoes though!

  2. Well I've just tapped the black walnut tree in my backyard as a result of this post. Thanks!!!

  3. Well I just tapped the black walnut tree in my backyard as a result of this post. Thanks!!