Shop עברית

Permaculture and kilaim


I was wondering what the halachic implications of companion gardening and permaculture are. 
Is there a way to plant a field this way without violating kila'im?


Rabbi Moshe Bloom

 Permaculture (permanent agriculture), is an agricultural method and a consumer philosophy that attempt to care for both the earth and human beings. It is a planning approach that deals with forming long-lasting reproductive systems in residential and agricultural environments employing the laws of nature.

Permaculture deals extensively with the links between certain types of plants, and the value of them being alongside each other, in complete contrast with the predominant monoculture method used throughout the world today, whereas each plant is sown by itself, largescale.

In principle, Jewish law values the basic elements of permaculture:

  1. Taking care of the soil.
  2. Care for people: ensuring that all people have access to basic resources—clean water, pure air, etc.
  3. Limiting consumption and dividing up surplus.

Midrash Kohelet Rabbah (7,13) states:

"When the Holy One Blessed Be He created Adam, he took him and led him around all the trees of the Garden of Eden, and said to him: Look at my works, how beautiful and praiseworthy they are! Everything that I created, I created for your sake. Take heed not to corrupt and destroy my word, for if you corrupt it, there will be no one to repair it after you."

Furthermore, sustainability, maintaining balance in nature, limiting the use of nature to preserve it for future generations, and other values, are important and Judaism is not against any of them, in principle.


From the little I've read on the topic, the primary issue here involves the laws of kil'aim:

The Torah prohibits mixing or joining different species, in various areas:

Kilei beheima, cross breeding animals: a horse and donkey, for example.

Kilei begadim, sha'atnez: wearing wool and linen together.

Kilei zera'im: interplanting or sustaining two types of seeds (vegetables, legumes, grains) in close proximity.

Kilei hakerem: sowing or sustaining plants next to a grapevine.

Kilei ilan: grafting trees from two different species onto one another.

Permaculture gardening involves proper planning before setting up the garden infrastructure to ensure that each seed is planted with the proper distance from the others according to halacha, while preserving the advantage of growing several types of plants in close proximity.

The necessary distance varies from plant to plant. In general, in private gardens the distance between different types of vegetables is 1.5 tefachim (12 cm), while for the five grains the distance is 2 amot (96 cm). Between legumes or between legumes and grains; between legumes and vegetables; and between one of the five grains and a vegetable: 1 ama (48 cm). In principle, it is also possible to erect different types of barriers between the patches, such as a fence or tzurat hapetach (the shape of a doorway); however, precise halachic guidelines must be followed.

A single grapevine requires the distance of 1 ama (48 cm) from vegetables; for a group of 5 grapevines or more, the distance is 4 amot (192 cm).

Additional points

Terumot and ma'aserot, offerings and tithes. Every time plants are harvested, it is necessary to say the formula for separating terumot and ma'aserot and separate a little more than 1% of the produce as teruma. Today it is forbidden to eat teruma, since we are ritually impure.

In many places, teruma is given to the livestock of a Kohen, which is permitted according to many poskim, in order to minimize waste. For olives, Kohanim can use olive oil for lighting Shabbat or Channuka candles. Otherwise, the teruma should be buried or double bagged and disposed of in the garbage. Teruma should not be put in a composter.

Orlah fruit. The fruit of trees is forbidden in the trees' first three years for both consumption and benefit. The Torah VeHa'aretz Institute recommendation to farmers and those with private gardens is to clip buds from the tree during this period. In this way, fruit will not develop and the tree will preserve and store its energy, and in the fourth year and on it will produce higher quality fruit in greater quantities.

Shemita, the Sabbatical year, is an example of a Jewish value of protecting the soil and letting it lie fallow and rest for a year every seven years (there are, of course, other explanations for the mitzvah of Shemita).