Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Overwintering plants... and Maple tapping!

 Overwintering and Tree Tapping
Every winter we put some of our plants, tubers and bulbs in our basement or garage, so that they will be protected from freezing temperatures.

The usual suspects are your Gladiola bulbs and your Dahlia tubers.
Living in the north adds a bit of work to your fall gardening schedule but it is well worth the work to see those beautiful blooms in the summer months.

Gladiolas are the tall flowers and the Dahlias are the bright puffy ones!

But did you know that you can also overwinter all kinds of plants?
Here is a guide I find helpful in determining weather or not you have the right conditions to overwinter your favorite plants, herbs, flowers and even fruit trees, from the garden you worked so hard on all summer!!

We have many plants that are in pots, so that we can do this.
I have a beautiful Meyer Lemon tree that I have kept alive for about 7 years now. It thrives outside all summer long and then we move it indoor for the winter. It has a happy place next to a south facing window. It is flowering right now. I hope we get some fruit this year.
Meyer Lemon Tree
Potted herbs and plants
Avocado tree in a pot.
I also have some Rosemary, Parsley and two Avocado trees I started from seed, all thriving indoors until they can go outside for the summer.

Top left to right: Lemon Balm, Parsley Peppermint.
Middle left to right: Oregano, Raspberries.
Bottom left to right: Spearmint, Chocolate mint.

My mint plants(I have 3 kinds Chocolate, peppermint and spearmint) my lemon balm and a couple more parsley plants have all thrived in our garage this winter.
 We just bought 2 Raspberry plants and 2 Blueberry bushes to plant this spring. Since it is still too cold to plant them yet(being that the ground is frozen still) we are keeping them safe in the garage for now. We keep them watered and during the day when it is nice out we  set them out to get some sun and nutrition.

It isn't hard to do this with a little planning and the right space(light from a window, your protected garage or a basement or even a shed.) you can do it too!!

Now on to Maple tapping.
We have been planning to do this for two years now.
We have read article after article, and watched video after video.
Nothing prepares you for the thrill of getting that first sap though.
In the last few days I have collected about 7 gallons of sap....at this point I can't keep up with it all. 
The half pint jar on the left is my second batch of Maple Syrup.
The jar on the right is the Maple sugar I accidentally made.

But I am boiling it down and trying to not turn it into sugar like I did the first batch.....  :)

There really isn't too much to it. In the spring(right now for us here in Maine) when the nights are below 32* and the days get into the 40's the sap is moving from the roots up into the tree to nourish it's impending growth. So as it travels upwards some of the sap is tappable. You can read all about the tapping process here and the syrup making process here.
We only purchased 5 taps, so each of our closest Maple trees has one tap. That makes it easier to collect the sap.
As we collect it we cook it down until it reaches a syrup like consistency. Then we cool it and filter it.Store it in a mason jar in the fridge.
We will get a hydrometer when we can afford to, but for now we are just winging it.
With only the 5 trees tapped, it is a manageable project for one person. I am actually really enjoying the process. It is a kind of Zen experience. I love watching the clear sap turn to that golden color.
The benefits of living in the north east are many. I am so happy that we get to experience this part. What a wonderful way to bring in the springtime!

Love from the Homestead,


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