How to Make Maple Syrup in Your Yard

Step One: Collect the Sap

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If you have maple trees in your yard you can make maple syrup. In this post, we'll show you how to tap the trees and collect the sap. You'll need about 11 gallons of sap to make one quart of maple syrup. The amount of sap your tree will produce will depend on many factors, including the size, species, and health of the tree. And, of course, the weather!

When to Tap

Sap runs when cold nights (below freezing) are followed by rapid warming and daytime temperatures from the high-30s to mid-40s. According to the Minnesota DNR, sap typically runs from March 15 to April 20. But it all depends on the weather. If conditions are right, sap will run in January or February.

What to Tap

You can tap silver maples, sugar maples, red maples, or box elder to make syrup. Trees should be at least 10 inches in diameter, four feet from the ground. Very large healthy trees can support a maximum of two taps.

food safe bucket and tubing for collecting tree sap

You can find everything you need at your local home improvement store.

Prepare 5-gallon food-safe buckets with lids

You will need one bucket for each tap. Use 5-gallon food-safe buckets with lids (to keep rain, debris, and squirrels out). Do not use smelly pickle buckets. Buckets should be clean, but don’t have to be sterile. Prepare the lids by drilling a hole large enough for your 5/8” ID (inside dimension) tubing.

You can buy food-safe buckets for about $10 each from Home Depot, online, or from home brewing supply stores. Or you can call around to bakeries, restaurants, co-ops, etc., and usually find free ones.

You will also need:

  • Power drill with 5/8” bit and extension cord
  • 5/8-inch copper plumbing pipe
  • Tubing with 5/8-inch inside dimension (ID)
  • Tape (needs to work in a cold, wet environment)
  • Hot water
drilling a hole in a maple tree for sap

Drill the hole at an angle, about 2 inches deep

Drill the Hole

Drill the hole at an angle, about 2 inches deep. The south side is best, above a root if you can locate one.

The hole will take a couple of years to heal completely. And you will not want to tap the tree in the same place next year. Next year, drill to the right or left, and above or below the spot you drilled this season.

Clean the Hole

Splash hot water into the hole to clean out the shavings (so they don’t get in the sap.)

Insert pipe (spile)

5/8” copper plumbing pipe works well, about 7 inches long. It helps to wrap the pipe with a little tape, so it fits snugly. Use a mallet or hammer to set the pipe securely in the hole.

Connect the tubing

Attach one end of the tubing to the spile, and shove the other end into the bucket. Secure the bucket so the wind doesn’t blow it over. You may need to seal around the hole and tubing with a little tape to keep the rain out (yuck).

Keep the sap cold until you are ready to boil.

Sap spoils easily so make sure you have a plan for keeping it cold until you are ready to boil. Packing it in snow works well, but don’t bury it completely, because the snow can also act as insulation, keeping the sap warm. In our next post, we'll show you how to process the sap and turn it into maple syrup.

Learn More

Check out these helpful resources to learn more about how to make maple syrup in your backyard.

Maple Syruping in Minnesota

Homemade Maple Syrup

Making Backyard Maple Syrup

Step One: Collect the Sap

Eager for Spring? Making maple syrup in your backyard is a great way to enjoy the outdoors while you're waiting for the snow and ice to melt. Step one: collect the sap.

Step Two: From Sap to Syrup

To turn sap into syrup you'll need space to store lots of sap, a propane stove, time, and some basic equipment.

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