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Setting up balcony gardens during shemitah

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We have recently received many inquiries on gardening during shemitah. Often, since shemitah laws are unfamiliar, many assume that everything is forbidden. However, as you can see below, it always pays to ask. Below are two questions I was asked by a shemitah-observant gardener:

Question: I have been asked to "plant" a balcony garden. I don't have time before shemitah. It is on the 9th floor of a tall building, not penthouse floor. There are balconies below and above the balcony. Does this constitute planting to move plants in pots from the nursery and placing them on the tiled concrete balcony during the shemitah year?


Rabbi Moshe Bloom

Photo: Daniel Hyman (shemitah-observant gardener)


Answer: This is not a problem, provided that you: (1) bring plants and trees from a shemitah-observant nursery and (2) wrap the plants/trees in plastic before moving them.


Question: Under which conditions can I bring new plants to an uncovered balcony, roof, or penthouse? From what I understood, it is permissible to move an unperforated pot around in a garden. SO If I am buying plants from a shemitah-observant nursery that were grown in unperforated planters outside (if grown in areas with less than 50% material in the netting, I'm assuming it has the same status as outdoors, please correct me if I'm mistaken), may I transfer them (wrapped in plastic/cellophane) to an open balcony or penthouse during shemitah?

Answer: If the plants are not connected to the ground in the nursery and are outdoors (you are correct, netting with less than 50% material is considered outdoors), you may move such plants (wrapped) to uncovered balconies, roofs, and penthouses.

However, if the plants were growing on detached platforms indoors (in a roofed structure covered by netting or other roofing with more than 50% material), it is forbidden to bring such plants to outdoor areas.