Kosher Turf

 Nochum from Beit Shemesh asks:

I moved into a new apartment
last year. I now wish to lay turf (sod) to create a lawn. Are there any sh’mittah
problems involved in buying fresh turf?

The following information was received from Dr. Moshe Sachs,
agronomist for the Centre for Halachic Agriculture. Most turf is cultivated as a
perennial plant and is not planted anew every year. The method by which fresh
turf is obtained for selling depends on the type of grass. For some species
(such as Bermuda) the top layer of grass is removed, allowing the grass below to
regenerate. With others (such as Buffalo and Durban), alternate strips are
removed. The remaining strips then spread to fill the gaps. Whichever method is
used, watering and fertilizing are required to produce the next turf “crop.”
Since there was little demand for fresh turf during the sh’mittah year,
almost no completely new grass was planted. However, there is a possibility that
forbidden work was carried out in order to produce the layer of turf that is now
for sale. One should note that even those who are lenient with sh’mittah
fruit which is ne’evad (forbidden work was carried out) are stringent
when it comes to flowers and other non-food products. If one is unable to
ascertain that no forbidden work was carried out on this turf, it would be
advisable to wait till the summer, when eighth year turf will become available.