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Q&A

Sh'mita and the home garden: what if anything is permitted?

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I live in the diaspora and this doesn't affect me personally, but in thinking about the sh'mita cycle while tending my small garden, I found myself wondering about some details. Does the law to not plant and let fields lie fallow for the year apply only to "crops" (to be defined), or to anything you plant in the ground? Can you plant flowers? Can you plant herbs (a kitchen garden)? Can you plant something in a pot? (I know that hydroponic crops are permitted; I don't know if that's because they are, necessarily, not connected to the ground, or because there is no soil.) Is there some minimum amount, below which sh'mita doesn't apply, like there is a minimum volume of bread before we take challah?

Thinking about a homeowner with a personal garden (or perhaps just a pot of basil on the porch), and not someone doing larger-scale agriculture, what limitations apply during the sh'mita year if you live in the land of Israel?

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In general, whatever applies to crop farming applies to the home garden. Exceptions (like planting indoors, or not attached to soil, or on non-Jewish-owned land, or others) apply to both equally. That said, there are some leniencies relied upon for crop farming because otherwise the economy would falter, which are not relied upon for home gardens.

Precisely what rules apply? There've been entire books written on the topic; I'm not going to go through all the rules here (if even I could).

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