This is our third issue of the Leaf in Brief for 2014 and you may not find this punny, but winter's making us crazy too. By now you're limbering up and have taking a lichen to our publication. Don't twig out or snap because the winter is branching on forever. There isn't mulch we can do about it, so plant yourself down and let those sappy feelings fade in our latest issue. Lettuce all rejoice that spring is only a week away.

If you needle little help because you're stumped on tapping maple trees, then this syrupy-sweet issue is just fir you. The plant of the month is Wisconsin's native Sugar Maple, the Leaf Lore is about the chemis-tree between pancakes and maple syrup, and our garden tip is just peachy for out-ciders with home orchards.

We don't want to run rings around you (after all we hope we've grown on you) so we'll leaf you to enjoy.

Thank you,

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tentatively begin
April 8
Tapping Maple Syrup
by Aaron Jambura, Harvest/Farm Manager

"It's what's on the inside that counts." How often have we all heard that saying? When most people are enjoying the majesty of our state tree's handsome shape or the breathtaking colors that the chills of autumn bestow upon its leaves, what's on the inside is all a maple syrup enthusiast can think about. The clear sap running through the Sugar Maple's trunk and branches contains sugar which can be harvested and made into delicious maple syrup.


Pure maple syrup is made exclusively from the sap of maple trees. Any type of maple tree can be tapped, but Sugar Maple sap contains the highest amount of sugar, about 2%. Most of what is available at your local grocery store is maple-flavored corn syrup and contains little or no real maple syrup. If you've never tasted pure maple syrup, you are missing out on a much sweeter and richer taste.


So how is this gift from nature created? It all starts in early spring when the sap begins to flow. As the ground starts to thaw, the sap of the Sugar Maple moves from the roots back to the branches where the buds will use the sugar to create leaves and new growth. The sap flow on a daily basis can vary heavily. Ideally you want the day to be sunny and warm and the night to dip below freezing. These conditions will allow for more sap movement within the tree and larger sap collections.


Any tree with a diameter over 12" can be tapped. A small metal tube-like device called a "spile" is inserted into a hole drilled about 1.5" into the trunk. When conditions are right, sap will bleed from the bored out wood and through the spile into a collection device. Beginners can collect sap in buckets or bag assemblies. Large producers attach tubing directly to the spiles and use vacuum pumps to constantly suck the sap into large collection tanks. Up to four gallons of sap can be collected from a single tap each day. Collection is halted when the sap begins to appear cloudy or when the buds of the tree begin to swell. At this point, the sap will yield syrup with a bitter taste.


Once you have collected your sap, all you need to do for syrup is boil it! Boiling will evaporate the water in the sap to get the sugar concentration from 2% to about 67%. Generally, it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. The finished color of your syrup can vary from a light amber to a rich dark brown depending on when the sap was collected. Sap collected early in the season yields a lighter colored syrup with a milder flavor, whereas sap collected later creates a darker, bolder tasting product. A beginner can boil the sap on a stove top or over a flame from a turkey fryer. If you have several gallons to boil down, it is best done outside. The water you are boiling off has to go somewhere and you don't want it collecting on the walls and windows in your house. Larger producers use shallow, flat pans or commercially produced evaporators fueled by a wood fire or other heat source. Ideally, you create as much surface area for the steam to blow off as possible with your pan. Maintain a hard boil on the sap until you reach 67% sugar. This point is determined with a hydrometer which measures the specific gravity of the product. If you don't have one, you will have to pay close attention to the bubbles from boiling. Once they turn yellow and begin to build, you have created syrup. If you boil the sap too long, the sap can burn or begin to crystallize into maple sugar (another delicious treat and perhaps another article).


Now that you have concentrated the sap to syrup, you will need to filter the product. At this point, it is very cloudy due to the 'maple sand' that has been created. This 'sand ' is not harmful as it is purely crystallized nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and other trace elements found in the tree's sap, but it does look unappealing and can be gritty. The hot syrup is run through a very fine filter to yield the clear product we are familiar with. Once filtered, it should be hot packed into a clean suitable container. Like honey, maple syrup will keep almost indefinitely.


I have been making syrup for several years and it seems to have become a hobby gone awry. I end up tapping more and more trees each year. A lot of work goes into making syrup, but I love the satisfaction of producing a hand-crafted, completely natural product. I collect my sap from natural strands of Sugar Maples growing at the Johnson's Nursery tree farm in Jackson and craft it over a hardwood fire. Twelve ounce containers of my Mooor Steem! brand are available for purchase at the Menomonee Falls nursery. Another way Johnson's Nursery, Inc. is bringing 'Nature's Best to You!'
Aaron Jambura


Mooor Steem! by Aaron Jambura

Sugar Maple   

Acer Saccharum

Sugar Maple - Acer saccharum
Mature Height: 50-75'   Mature Spread: 50'
Exposure: Full Sun is ideal, but tolerant of filtered shade. Zone: 3

The Queen of Wisconsin, Sugar Maples were named the state tree in 1949 and are what make our state so special in the fall. The deep green leaves light up hillsides, forests, and yards with their colors of yellow, orange, and scarlet. In a hardwood forest containing Sugar Maples, the leaves break down over time and create ideal growing conditions for the trees- moist, well-drained, and rich in organic matter. So if your yard is less than ideal when installing a Sugar Maple, be sure to use amendments like compost and peat moss. Also, avoid areas that hold water or are heavily salted in winter.


2014 Fruit Tree Stock Released! 

Home orchards are an increasingly popular hobby. Johnson's Nursery will once again be carrying a wide selection of Apple, Peach, Plum, and Cherry trees this year. Due to high demand, our stock sells out fast. Give us a call to get prices and reserve your plants!

Landscaping Tips - Late Winter Pruning

The best time to prune trees and shrubs is when they are dormant. Just prior to bud break in March or early April is the ideal time, although it can be done anytime during the dormant season.

Forcing Stems

A couple weeks ago, Carrie Hennessy released a Quick Tip about bringing Spring indoors. She explained that dormant tree stems could be brought indoors to begin spring before Mother Nature does. She explains that Magnolias, Forsythias, and Willows are the easiest to force into bloom since they are also among the first plants to flower. With a little patience, Crabapples, Eastern Redbuds, Corneliancherry Dogwoods, even Maple Trees will brighten your house, too. Select the link on the right to watch her instructions. 
Pancakes and Syrup

It's unclear when people discovered that pancakes with maple syrup were the perfect combination, but we sure are glad they did. Traditionally, pancakes were made to use up the decadent ingredients milk, butter, and eggs that were forbidden during the Lenten fast. Thus, Fat Tuesday (Mardis Gras) is sometimes called Pancake Day. In Britain they call it Shrove Tuesday which comes from the Old English word "shrive" meaning "confess all sins".


Maple syrup had a long history in North America before Europeans showed up with their pancakes. Native Americans have various legends about how sweet syrup used to flow freely from Sugar Maples but the gods were worried that this would make people lazy. They thought people would hang out under maple trees all day, mouths open, syrup running into their bellies (like a primitive keg stand). So the Creator poured water over the top of the Sugar Maples, diluting the syrup to a thin sap which was only available at the end of winter. The sweet sap was collected in hollowed out bark containers and could then be boiled into syrup, or made into maple sugar through a freezing process, which was easier for nomadic tribes to transport.


Quakers and abolitionists preferred using maple sugar and syrup as sweeteners, rather than rely on cane sugar and molasses that was grown down south, the production of which relied on slave labor. The March 1803 issue of Farmers Almanac even proclaimed "prepare for making maple sugar, which is more pleasant and patriotic than that ground by the hand of slavery, and boiled down by the heat of misery." The Civil War greatly increased maple syrup production in the United States and with the invention of tin cans an American industry was born.

This Year: Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Syrup Predates European Settlers

Old Days - Wisconsin Maple Syrup - Tin Can

Thursday, March 20th - First Day of Spring!

Recycling Events to Begin This June 
Meribeth Sullivan of Waukesha County discusses recycling tips and announces our collaboration on semi-annual recycling events on The Morning Blend (TMJ4). Watch

News! Johnson's Gardens in Cedarburg, WI

Introducing Lanora Haradon, Location Manager
Lanora was born and raised in Cedarburg, WI and her community roots run deep.
We invite everyone to stop by and welcome her!

8504 Highway 60. Cedarburg, WI 53012

p. 262.377.2500   w. 


Johnson's Nursery, Inc.
Nature's Best to You.
p. 262-252-4988  e.