Tapping Maple Vs Walnut Trees For Syrup

Categories: Education, On The Farm
  • Usually you hear about people tapping maple trees, but there are several other trees you can tap as well including walnut and birch trees.  Although I have birch trees, I decided to tap a walnut tree.   (Teri at Homestead Honey wrote a post about walnut tapping which fascinated me.)  My inner child cartwheeled with glee all around the walnut trees.  So I want to teach you how to tap a walnut tree as well.  

  • It is only my first time, so next year I will be better prepared.Timing is Everything!

  • Timing is everything.  You want a freeze thaw type of temperature.  For example, you need a freezing temperature at night and then temperatures in at least the forties and fifties degrees during the day.  Given, this crazy winter, I should have been more mindful of the temperatures.

    Michael Farrell, Ph.D. , the Director of The Uihlein Forest, Cornell University Department of Natural Resources explains as follows:


    “Freezing temperatures in early spring cause the tree to go into negative pressure and brings water up from the ground into the tree’s cambium layer. Warming temperatures during the day cause the tree to thaw again which releases the water, now in the form of sap, back down through the cambium. It’s the freezing and thawing events that cause sap to flow back and forth in late March and early April.”Typically, you tap walnut trees the same time as maple trees.  I am zone 6 (New Jersey) so Maple trees are usually tapped in mid February to March, weather permitting.  (Birch trees are tapped later.  To learn about birch tree tapping, read HERE.)

  • Prerequisite to Tapping a Tree:

    Before you tap a tree, you need to make sure it is healthy and the right diameter.  Generally, walnut trees can be tapped when they are about 10 to 15 years old and 10 to 12 inches in diameter.  (Maple trees must be 25 years old.)

    However Dr. Farrell states during our email interview that an exact diameter for tapping is up for debate.


  • So here are some other prerequisites:

    1.  Tap on the south side of the tree, two to three  feet from the base.
    2.  Walnut trees have ridges, so you want to tap into the ridge part of the tree.  (This is the sapwood of the tree.)
    3.  Have patience.  It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.
    4.  If your trees are large, you can put in more than one tap.

    How to Tap a Walnut Tree:

    Tools you need:

    a drill with the appropriate drill bit based upon your spout size to make a two inch hole.
  • A hammer to tap the spout into the tree.
  • A bucket of some sort.  You can use any type of bucket.  We used old plastic vinegar containers and drilled a hole in the middle.
  • A spout.  We used a 5/16th stainless steel spout in following Teri’s post.  It has a little lip so you can hang the bucket or container on it.
  • A top to cover the buckets to keep out the rain and snow.  Since we used a plastic vinegar container with a stopper we didn’t need a top.
  • Rope, twine, or bungee cords.  We live in a wind area and you want to secure the bottles.  One did fall off when we had a terrible wind storm one weekend.  (I think it wasn’t properly tightened.)
  • Shoes you don’t mind getting dirty.  You will need to check every day or so if you have sap.
  • A camera or your cell phone!  You will want to shoot pictures of it and share with friends when you see a clear liquid in the container.  (I was jumping like a little kid.)

Watch Dr. Farrell as he taps a walnut tree:

Read more instructions and follow directions at Greentalk.com

Hobby Farms also has a great instructional

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