When To Tap Trees For Syrup?

Tree tapping occurs as winter transitions into spring. Depending on where you live, the timing may vary, but in general, tree tapping can begin any time between late February and mid-April.

The optimal time to harvest wood is when the daytime high is continuously above freezing and the low at night is below zero.

Can a tree be tapped too soon?

I recently got together with my friend Yannick, who runs Erabliere des Anges and serves as its head maple person, to catch up over coffee and talk about the forthcoming sugaring off season.

A few hours north of here, he has been managing a small, family-run, organic sugarbush for the past two years; last year, we tapped five trees there. For a few weeks, we are without access to our stoves in the evening as this is all-consuming for him at this time of year. To pay the bills, we both work throughout the day. He is a maple syrup expert in a way that I will never be.

We started talking (more like him educating) about the best time to tap and what to watch for after I said that we believe we lost much of the season last year since we tapped our trees too late.

It is crucial to keep in mind that a tree is a living entity that can (and will) mend itself, even though it spends the entire winter dormant. When a tree is tapped in the spring, it is comparable to a person getting a tiny wound that gradually heals over to stop the loss of bodily fluids. As a result, if you tap too early, the sap flow will gradually decrease over the spring due to the “scarring.” This is another reason why you should tap a good distance away from the tap from the prior year.

While later in the season, you get more fructose and glucose and the final product is typically darker (equally delicious by my standards, but less good if you’re doing this commercially), you want to tap as early as you can because the maple water at the beginning of the season has a higher ratio of sucrose and the final syrup is typically lighter (both of which are highly desirable).

The ideal outdoor temperature for the maple water to flow is above 4C (or 39F) during the day and below freezing at night. The precise timing of this can be difficult to forecast, but I enjoy looking at graphs from WeatherSpark, which display the anticipated temperature trends for the following 10 days in comparison to the yearly averages in a lovely grey range. A few weeks ago, during a period of warmth, the daytime temperatures rose well above freezing, but nothing was flowing, so it would have been useless to open the taps.

Searching for a small depression in the snow near the tree trunks is another method that was employed before the invention of Google and satellite weather forecasting. This indicates that the sun is warming the tree roots.

We’re very, very, VERY excited to enjoy the fruits of our labor and believe that we’ll be tapping either this weekend or the one after.

How old must a tree be before it can be tapped?

Although maple syrup is magnificent and tasty, the sap must first be collected in order to produce this delightful sweet pleasure.

Tapping a sugar maple is a terrific idea if you already have one. However, because they impede the growth of other tree species, planting new sugar maples is not advised.

Fortunately, we will outline the processes for you below. Go to your state’s local governance pages to find guidelines on the deciduous trees close to you and acquire tapping instructions if you’re interested in tapping trees locally (which, of course, you most certainly are).

Tap Your Tree During Early Spring

The greatest time to collect sap is in the early spring. This is so that when a tree is tapped, the sap will flow more readily due to the temperature variations that are present at this early point of the season.

Temperatures should ideally drop to near or below freezing at night, while daytime highs should be in the 40 to 50 degree range.

The best time to tap your tree will be any time from as early as January through as late as April, depending on how extreme the weather is where you live. If you are only tapping a few trees, March will probably be your best bet. Late winter and early spring is when the sap flows more readily.

Start early if you have numerous trees on your property and intend for them to eventually produce a lot of syrup. All depends on you!

The season ends when it continues to be above freezing and leaf buds start to emerge. Red maples are not nearly as dependable due to their early-season buds, which give you little time to collect their sap.

Remember that you should follow the local weather more so than a certain month when deciding when to tap your trees.

Find The Right Sized Maple Tree to Tap

A mature tree that can be tapped is what you need. If the tree is too young, drilling into it in the manner required for tapping could cause it significant pain or even death.

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, it is acceptable to begin tapping a mature maple tree for sap when it is at least 4 feet tall and 10 inches in diameter. Using a single tap is believed to produce the optimum results, however fully established trees may bear several taps at once; still, no more than three taps are recommended.

By only using one tap, the tree won’t be overworked and will eventually be able to produce sap more quickly and with higher quality.

Place The Tap To Get Syrup

This is the reason why a tree needs to be at least 4 feet tall in order to be securely and properly tapped: your hole for tapping sap should be dug between 2 and 4 feet off the ground. You’ll also need to be able to tilt your spile (the spout that empties the sap) slightly upward.

Reaching the sap requires inserting the spile a few inches into the tree, but doing so too deeply could put the tree under undue strain. The sap will easily flow into your bucket from this position because to its positioning.

Check Your Bucket Frequently For Sap

You should check your bucket at least once a day, to speak of. On certain days, you might not need to collect any sap because your bucket will be full, but on other days, you might need to collect sap more frequently.

Additionally, how big of a bucket you are using makes a difference. A container between 1 and 2 gallons needs to be checked considerably more frequently than a bucket between 3 and 4 gallons. The extra gallon or two makes the difference between having to collect sap many times each day and only having to check once per day, even on occasion taking a day off.

Processing the sap, however, is an entirely different matter. This will largely rely on the type of tree from which you collected the sap as well as how you want the syrup to taste. But we do hope that this may help you locate a good place to begin when making syrup!

Which branch do you tap to get maple syrup?

This just blew my mind: “According to Penn State, trees planted in the forest typically produce more and sweeter sap than those grown along roadsides, in lawns, or in open settings, where their crowns have grown wide without competition from other trees. I had been eagerly anticipating the time when we would have some land with woods so that we could engage in the distinctly American ritual of making maple syrup. For a truly traditional breakfast, pure maple syrup is required. It’s also my preferred sweetener for baking because, in contrast to white sugar, it has a variety of health advantages.

We had been residing beneath the shade of a large, gorgeous maple tree for 5 years, Urban Husband said last fall. Why should making maple syrup be all or nothing? Why not give it a shot right away and gain some practice? He was accurate.

Why Bother Tapping One Tree?

  • If done correctly, tapping a maple tree is SIMPLE and doesn’t hurt the tree—many have been tapped for more than a century.
  • The woods maple is actually BETTER for making maple syrup than that huge, gorgeous yard maple. In comparison to a forests maple, an open-grown tree can produce one half gallon of syrup in a season.
  • Through this amazing union of man and nature, it gives you the SATISFACTION of bringing your own pure maple syrup from tree to table.

If you don’t keep an eye on supply and energy expenses, a small-scale maple syrup company could create the most costly half gallon of syrup you’ve ever had. We kept the cost of the supplies to around $25. (Supplies can be utilized repeatedly.) We also determined how to make small-batch maple syrup the most effectively. (More will be said about this.)


Any maple will do; sugar maples are the best. You will get a little less syrup from the others simply because they have a somewhat lower sugar percentage. You can actually harvest wood from a wide variety of other trees, such as birches and black walnuts. Here are more details about the trees you can tap.


Spouts come in 5/16 and 7/16 diameters. Choose the 5/16 because it produces the same outcomes while causing less harm to the tree. Your cheapest choice is to purchase spouts, spikes, or taps from your neighborhood hardware store, which is unlikely to happen in an urban area. Costs are dictated by delivery because the components are relatively inexpensive. These were purchased from Amazon.

Sap Collection Containers

You can use milk jugs or our preferred Smart Bottles, or anything food-grade that holds a gallon or two. Major factors: 1. You need to cover it to prevent debris from entering. 2.) It ought to be durable enough to endure the odd nosy squirrel. 3. Frequent emptying of the contents should be easy enough.

The two primary methods for collecting sap are bucket systems and bag systems. For our busy location, we needed something covert and secure. The bag systems appeared to be costly and overly difficult, while the bucket systems appeared a little too alluring as a target (and very blue.) We discovered a really great substitute. For use when camping and outdoors, Smart Bottle manufactures sturdy, BPA-free, food-grade water bottles with big capacities. This one is really affordable and does a terrific job. See more information on how we put together our collection of sap here.

Optional Hook for Sap Collection Container

The simplest solution is to hang your sap collection jar from the spout. You can put a metal hook into the tree, like we did, to further secure it.

Optional Tubing

You might want some tubing to run from the spout to your container for more flexibility, depending on what you select for a sap gathering container and how you hang it. Additionally, you can run tubing from several spouts to a single container.

Sap Storage Containers

You will need to store sap if you don’t process it right away after collecting it. Keep the sap cool outside in food-grade buckets to prevent spoilage. Our neighborhood grocery shop bakery provided us with free food-grade buckets. (Not all of them do; call ahead to confirm.)

When Should I Tap My Maple Tree?

When you observe at least three days with daytime temperatures above freezing and nighttime temperatures below freezing, you should tap. Around 40 degrees during the day and 20 degrees at night are ideal for sap collection. As a result, during the chilly nights, sap is sucked up into the branches and released during the day. To avoid causing the tree as much harm, be careful to conduct your actual drilling while the temperature is above freezing. The prime season for tapping occurs between mid-February and mid-March.

Where Do I Place My Maple Taps?

The most frequently advised side of the tree to tap is its south side. It’s also advised to tap above or beneath a big root or branch to improve flow. Greater yields are offered by lower taps than higher taps. The best placement for your taps doesn’t really matter because it needs to be relocated at least six times per year, or twelve times vertically. You will eventually go around the entire tree. Simply seek out sound wood to drill through.

We knew that setting the taps relatively high (about 10 feet) would result in a slightly lesser volume. (Since our tree is near a lot of people, we didn’t want dogs or children to stick their noses in it.) We set up one tap on the south side and one on the north side, both beneath large branches. As you can see, the tree’s north side is significantly darker and wetter than its south side. The amount of sap produced by the southern tap is roughly twice as much as the northern tap’s!

Assemble supplies and plan your taps

  • To establish how many taps you may install and where to put them, measure your tree. According to the University of Maine, a tree with a diameter of 10 to 20 inches can withstand one tap, 20 to 25 can withstand two taps, and 25 to over can withstand three taps.
  • Set up your system for collecting sap. (More on how we put together our fantastic Smart Bottle system will be in the following post.)
  • To prevent overdrilling, mark your drill bit with sticky tape at 1 1/2.

Drill a hole

Use a drill bit that is the same diameter as your spout or just a little smaller. drill in 1 and half. Drill straight, according to some, and it will be exactly round and flush with the spout. Some recommend drilling slightly upwards so that sap can trickle out more easily. To identify when we had drilled deep enough, we marked 1 1/2 on our drill bit with tape and bore at a very little upward inclination. If the conditions are ideal, sap should begin to drip right away.

Tap spouts in hole

When you hear the thud of impact, insert the spout into the hole and lightly tap it a few times. The spout needs to be driven into the wood, but you don’t want to drive it too deeply or far, since that could harm the tree or lead to leaks surrounding the spout.

Collect sap

As soon as your sap collection containers start to fill up, empty them into your sap storage container. Depending on the weather and size of the container, this may be a twice daily or every few days activity. Make careful they don’t overflow and waste the priceless sap! You can continue to gather sap until the trees begin to bloom with buds and the sap starts to taste bad.

Process sap into syrup

It might take a lot of time and work to turn sap into syrup. One gallon of syrup requires the boiling down of 40 gallons of sap. You can accomplish this in your kitchen if you don’t have access to free or inexpensive firewood outside and outdoor space. The best, most energy-efficient way to process your maple syrup is recommended here, along with advice on how to cut costs, reduce mess, and correct any faults.

Taste and savor the fresh maple sap, please! It is a tasty and healthy beverage!

Why are you holding out? Step outside and take part! Do you know someone who owns a maple tree? Tell them about this!