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Planting a small garden in Elul before the shemitah year

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Dear Rabbi,

I am going back to yeshiva to study on the 1st of Elul, G-d willing. I would like to set up a small garden next to my room. I'm not sure what is permitted for me to plant/sow in Elul ahead of shemitah (I looked up material online and in your shemitah guide, but I didn't really understand what I'm supposed to do). In general, I would like to plant: (1) Louisa verbena, (2) mint, (3) several flowers (I understand that it is makes a difference whether the flower is an annual or perennial—to tell the truth, I don’t really understand what that means), and (4) a fruit tree. I wanted to sow the first three and plant the tree.


Rabbi Avraham Sochovolsky

During the shemitah year it is forbidden to sow and plant. Furthermore, it is forbidden for new plants to take root during the shemitah year, which is why it is important to plant sufficiently ahead of the shemitah to account for the time for such plants to take root.

According to halachah, for trees the time to take root is two weeks (14 days), while for seeds three days. Saplings or seedlings that are planted with their clod of earth are considered having taken root, so additional time is unnecessary.

Chazal decreed that the first year of orlah for fruit trees should not be during the shemitah year, so such trees need to be planted thirty days before Rosh Hashanah (that is: 29 Av).

In light of the above:

Bare-rooted fruit trees should be planted by 15 Av so to allow them 14 days to take root, plus another 30 days which will be considered the first year of their orlah count.

Fruit trees encased in a clod of earth should be planted by 29 Av, since the tree has already taken root. We still need to ensure that it is planted 30 days before Rosh Hashanah for the orlah count.

Bare rooted non-fruit trees should be planted by 15 Elul, to allow them two weeks to take root.

Vegetables and seeds should be planted by 26 Elul to allow three days to take root.

Note that seeds, vegetables, and other edible plants should begin to sprout above the ground (the beginning of the stalk formation) before the onset of the shemitah year. Otherwise, these crops will be forbidden to eat due to the sefichin prohibition. It is important to plant even several days before the deadline, just in case, and water them sufficiently so they begin to sprout before Rosh Hashanah.