Shemitah QA 3
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Several days ago, I received a cactus plant in a small perforated planter. The planter is very small and soon will not have enough room for the cactus.
- Can I plant it in my yard or in a larger planter? How should I go about doing it?
- What should I do with the plant to prevent it from withering up and dying?
You may repot your cactus plant in a large planter indoors only. If you live on a ground-floor apartment, you will need an additional detaching surface between the planter and the floor (such as a metal bowl). The best is to continue watering the plant and after Rosh Hashanah (marking the first day of the eighth year/first year of the shemitah cycle) you will be able to plant it in the ground outside.
- I have a planter that is connected to my building. It juts out of my building, and we can grow plants in it. Am I allowed to tend to the soil and grow new plants there?
- Am I allowed to take a shoot from a tree (a khat tree, pronounced gat in Hebrew, whose leaves are chewed), put it in a cup of water until it grows roots, and plant it in an unperforated planter indoors? What is the status of a khat plant in general?
- Is a khat plant subject to terumot and ma'aserot (its leaves are chewed but not eaten)?
- You should not grow plants in such a planter during the shemitah Since the planter cannot be moved from place to place, rather it is attached to the building which is attached to the ground, the planter is considered attached to the ground. Thus, it is considered planting in the ground.
- It is possible to be lenient when necessary and take a shoot from a khat plant. You may then plant it in an unperforated planter indoors.
- Khat leaves are exempt from terumot and ma'aserot since they are not actually eaten.
I have a home garden. It includes a decorative area with multicolored pebbles (beneath the pebbles is a plastic sheet and only under the sheet is there ground). After the winter rains, weeds began sprouting from between the pebbles, marring the appearance of the garden. I know that I'm allowed to mow down the short weeds from above the ground, but may I uproot them entirely?
It is best to spray the weeds with herbicide so they die. Afterwards you can clear them out or bend them back.
- There is a field across from my house and it is ownerless. Sometimes wild flowers grow there, and there are several fruit trees there, too. Is there a problem watering the field during the shemitah year?
- May I pick the fruit from the tree in that field? Could you include a short explanation about separating terumot and ma'aserot?
- If we see that the plants start withering and dying, it is possible to water it, since it is possible to save trees and plants that are ownerless during the shemitah year (just as it is permissible to water plants and trees that are privately owned—and they, too become ownerless during the shemitah year).
- It is permissible to pick fruit from an ownerless tree. Such trees are not obligated in terumot and ma'aserot—neither during shemitah or non-shemitah years, since ownerless fruit is always exempt from terumot and ma'aserot.
- Everything that I wrote is true if the tree is completely ownerless.
I would like to plant mint in a planter. How is it possible to do this in a halachically permissible manner? Can I plant it in a planter that is detached from the ground? The planter will be indoors, and there is a roof above the area I want to plant it in and partitions on either side of the planter. Can I even plant during shemitah?
The planter needs to be indoors. If the planter is detached from the ground and if it is under a roof and there are walls on either side, it is possible to even plant in it even during the shemitah year.
I am a gardener and I have several questions:
Can I use a cultivator (a cultivator is a tool that aerates and loosens the soil)? I worked in the garden where we needed to replace the soil with a substance that includes all sorts of nutrients that enrich the soil to make it possible (for others) to plant. Is this ok? Is it permissible to uproot plants in their entirety (since someone else wants to plant them elsewhere)?
The biggest problem is this: I work with someone who is religious and we spoke about the issue of shemitah. He told me that he asked a rabbi and that it is permissible. In short, we do everything (and I mean everything) except for planting during shemitah. Is there someone we can rely on for these matters?
- Using a cultivator to loosen the soil is an action performed for aesthetic purposes and does not truly aerate the soil. However, we try to avoid any form of breaking down soil, lechatchilah. If you have clients for whom aesthetics are important, you may use a cultivator to till the ground.
- Do not lay dirt or soil to prepare it for sowing during the shemitah
- Uprooting is not prohibited per se, but it is forbidden to replant elsewhere the plants that were uprooted. You should not make preparations for someone who is probably not going to observe shemitah laws to plant, unless it will be performed in a halachically permissible manner (heter mechirah or in a hothouse on detached platforms). However, you do not have to suffer financial loss because of this, since you are only uprooting plants; the one selling the plants is the one who owns them.
- I'm not familiar with the specifics of your case, but there are many things you may do when there is heter mechirah. For this, you need special guidance. It is best to have your friend contact Torah VeHa'aretz Institute to receive detailed guidance. We also put out a special guide for gardeners with specific guidelines; see here.