Flowerpots and Hydroponics
Even a person who does not have a garden can keep the laws of Shmittah, if he has a flowerpot, or a planter.
– If the flowerpot is outdoors, it is like the ground and the laws of Shmittah apply.
– If the flowerpot is indoors, it will depend.
An Outdoor Flowerpot
A flowerpot is considered outdoors if it is open to the sky. For example:
– It is on the ground outside under the sky.
– It is standing on a table outisde under the sky.
– It is on a balcony with no roof.
– It is on a balcony, suspended from a railing.
It is forbidden to plant in such a flowerpot, or to prune existing plants. It may be watered only so that it survives. Fertilizer can only be used if the plant would die otherwise.
An indoor flowerpot that is like an outdoor flowerpot
Sometimes, a flowerpot inside an apartment can have similarities to the ground, and the laws of Shmittah apply. Such a flowerpot is called “atzitz nakuv”, and is nourished from the ground. A plant that is not nurished from the ground is called “atzitz sh’eino nakuv”.
Some say that only a flowerpot on the ground floor of a house is atzitz sh’eino nakuv, and the laws of Shmittah do not apply. Others say that even if a flowerpot is not on the ground floor., the laws of Shmittah may apply.
A flowerpot that is in a ground floor apartment will be considered atzitz nakuv and the laws of Shmittah apply if:
– The branches of the plant extend beyond the sides of the pot, or
– There is a 1mm hole in the bottom of the pot, or
– The pot is made of earthenware.
In any of these cases, the flowerpot can get nourishment from the ground.
A flowerpot that is outdoors ma be brought indoors, since this is like uprooting it. Only planting it is forbidden during Shmittah.
A flowerpot that is outdoors that tipped over may be stood up. But if soil spilled out, it may not be returned.
An Indoor Flowerpot
A flowerpot that cannot get nourishment from the ground is called a “atzitz sh’eino nakuv” flowerpot. The laws of Shmittah will not apply to an indoor flowerpot if:
-It does not have a hole in the bottom, and
– It is made of plastic, wood, metal, glass, or stone, and
– The branches of the pot do not extend beyond the sides.
Alternatively, if there is a wooden board or plastic plate that is underneath the pot and underneath the branches, the laws of Shmittah will not apply.
An indoor flowerpot that is not nourished from the ground can be looked after as usual. It is best not to palnt seeds or new plants in it, even though it is indoors.
Taking a Flowerpot Outside
It is forbidden to take a flowerpot outdoors, since this is like planting it.
Hydroponics: Pants Growing in Water
The laws of Shmittah apply to plants that grow outdoors in water. It is permitted to grow in water indoors, e.g. avocado, sprouts.
(Originally published in the Mishpacha’s pre-Shmittah 5768 edition).
(Photo credits: http://pixabay.com/en/flowerpots-garden-gardening-317788/)