QWe have several large sugar maple trees on our property. Can we tap these and make maple syrup?
AMaking maple syrup is labor-intensive and time-consuming. Maple syrup is expensive because it takes about 40 gallons of sap to produce 1 gallon of maple syrup, but it's worth it.
If you want to make maple syrup, measure the diameter of your trees at about 4 feet above the ground. They must be at least 12 inches in diameter before they can be tapped.
The same tree can be tapped every year, but the tap holes should be at least 6 inches horizontally and 2 feet vertically away from previous tap holes. Drill the tap hole about 2½ inches deep at a slightly upward angle, then insert a tap. Sap can be collected in buckets or in plastic collecting bags. Because the sap is mostly water, it has to be boiled to reduce it to syrup. This is best done outside because it produces lots of steam.
March is the primary month for making maple syrup. Check event listings for demonstrations at county and regional parks in the Twin Cities area. The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum will have pancake brunches featuring maple syrup made at the arboretum and tours of the syrupmaking facilities on March 24 and 25. See upcoming Home & Garden calendars for details.
QI am storing a potted 'Gourmet Popcorn' rose in my basement over winter. The rose has sent out two long, pale shoots. Should I cut these off or will that hurt the plant?
AThe basements of most houses really aren't cold enough for overwintering plants that need to stay dormant, such as your rosebush. The plant has not completely shut down its growth, as it would if it were outside or in colder storage (ideally somewhere between 25 and 40 degrees), and it may be responding to increasing day length by starting to send out new growth. Because the new growth is deprived of adequate light, it becomes pale and its growth is spindly and elongated.
Unless you move the plant to a colder area, it probably will continue to send out new growth. Your best bet is to treat your rose as a houseplant. Bring it to a cool room with a large window, south-or west-facing if possible. Cut back the length of the new shoots by about two-thirds. You will need additional light, which can be provided by hanging a fluorescent shop light over the plant. Keep the lights about 4 to 6 inches above the plant, adjusting the height as the plant grows.
Move the plant outside when the weather warms up in the spring, but you'll need to "harden it off," as you would with tomato seedlings. This means putting the plant outside in a protected, shaded area during warm days and bringing it in at night or on cold days. Gradually increase the time the plant is out and move it into more sunlight. After a few weeks, it can be placed in full sun for the summer.
-- Nancy Rose is a research horticulturist at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. She spends her spare time gardening, inside or outside, depending on the weather. To ask her a gardening question, call 612-673-9073 and leave a message. She will answer questions in this column only.