Sugar Maple Trees: 5 Farm Uses

A Stand of Sugar Maple Trees is a Wonderful Asset

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: Daniel Johnson

Sugar maple trees offer a wide variety of benefits to hobby farmers. Some are obvious—maple syrup, anyone?—but you might not be aware of all the ways these trees can provide useful products and materials on your farm.

Sugar Maple Tree Facts

Sugar maple trees are widespread throughout the eastern U.S. and Canada. They’re long-lived deciduous hardwoods that can grow tall and straight in a forest setting or wide and spreading out in the open.

If you have a stand on your farm, congratulations, it’s a wonderful asset. Here are five beneficial items sugar maple trees can yield on your farm:

1. Lumber

Like its almost indistinguishable relative the black maple, sugar maple trees are considered “hard maples” due to the hard, heavy, and durable lumber they produce. This is opposed to “soft maples” like red maple and silver maple, which yield softer, lighter and less durable wood.

The wood of sugar maple trees is attractive, and it’s regularly used to make hardwood flooring, furniture, musical instruments and more. If your farm features a stand of forest-grown sugar maple trees with tall, straight trunks, you’re looking at a source of high-quality and valuable lumber, provided you’re willing to harvest them.

2. Firewood

Sugar maple trees also produce high-quality firewood. The dense wood burns longer and produces more heat than many other types of wood. It is also known for burning with a pleasant smell and relatively few sparks.

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Given all their other benefits (awesome lumber, maple sap, etc.), turning a large number of living trees into firewood might not be the best use of your asset. But felling an occasional misshapen or old sugar maple tree to burn as firewood can be a sustainable practice if your sugar maple stand is large enough. You can also take large branches from specimens harvested for lumber and use those as firewood.

3. Maple Sap

Tapping maple trees for their sap is an age-old practice in late winter and early spring, yielding sugary sap that can be put to use in many ways. Boiling down the sap to make maple syrup is a common practice, but making maple sugar candy from the syrup is another delightful option.

Producing maple syrup requires a lot of trees since you need 40 gallons of sap to make a single gallon of syrup. But if your stand of sugar maple trees is large enough, and you’re willing to invest in time and equipment, harvesting maple sap can be an enjoyable and even profitable endeavor.

4. Leaf Mulch

Mature maple trees produce a lot of leaves each year—thousands upon thousands. When they fall to the ground in autumn, they provide an excellent source of leaf mulch. Before winter each year, I shred sugar maple leaves and pile them several inches deep around the base of a Contender peach tree in my orchard, which helps guard the peach tree’s roots from cold winter temperatures.

5. Leaf Compost

Shredded sugar maple leaves can also be incorporated into compost and used to improve soil quality in garden beds. They provide carbon, calcium, magnesium, and more while being quicker to break down than some other types of leaves.

Don’t let a valuable stand of sugar maple trees go unused. Whether you’re harvesting trees for lumber and firewood or enjoying the annual benefits of sap and leaves, there are many ways to use sugar maple trees on your farm.

This article was written for Hobby Farms online. Click here to subscribe to Hobby Farms print magazine.

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