Searching for schach in all the wrong places

Living in a semi-rural New England community, you don’t see a lot of sukkahs with bamboo mats for roofs. We’re proud of our agriculture, and the abundance of gardens and farms. We’re not just locavores (or should I say locafressers), we’re loca-Jews, and we are not getting our schakh all the way from China, thank you very much.


For our first sukkah in New England, I tried gathering schakh from our backyard. I used some downed spruce branches, and some beautiful pokeweed. With the bright fuschia stems and deep purple berries dangling above our table, our sukkah looked like a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting, had Norman Rockwell ever painted Jews. Within days, it was raining spruce needles, which would have been bad enough, until it also started raining pokeberries. Which are toxic. That too would have been bad enough (dayenu!) Until my children started stepping on the berries and tracking purple footprints throughout the house. 
So the next year, and for the next few years since then, I opted for the more traditional Massachusetts choice, corn stalks. I posted on our local freecycle board, and thanks to my generous neighbors, brought home several bundles. They are lovely and seasonal and my girls love helping harvest them. And I am very allergic. Every year, I forget to wear gloves and every year (including right this very minute) I break out in small red welts all over my forearms.
Next year, I’d really like to grow something in our garden that would make the perfect schakh. Any suggestions?
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posted September 21, 2010 at 10:11 pm

anyone have cedar trees nearby? cedar branches smell lovely and don’t rain sharp needles.

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posted September 22, 2010 at 10:53 am

After years of crummy bay laurel schach, I posted on Freecycle for bamboo foliage, and it is so great! Used the longer stuff as added support, and bundled the small stuff so it looks a little like thatching–with holes. The lady said to contact her next year for more. Cool!

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Uncle Tom

posted September 22, 2010 at 1:23 pm


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posted September 22, 2010 at 2:46 pm

bamboo is good, it grows quickly, but what about sunflowers? If you get the kind that get really tall, and Sukkot falls early (like this year), you can get a lot of coverage from a good patch of them. Of course, it’s hard to cut them down.
We have a big, overgrown property, and we’re always getting unwanted saplings along the fence, etc., so I just let them grow until the day after Yom Kippur and then head out with the Skil saw. If you have neighbors with any similar problems, you could always offer to trim their unwanted plants for them, if you can keep the branches.

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posted September 22, 2010 at 8:56 pm

Willow saplings.

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Your NameEdmon Rodman

posted September 23, 2010 at 6:53 pm

In LA, palm fronds look nice but can give you nasty cuts. As you will see by this article, what’s over your head on Sukkot varies from region to region.

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posted September 24, 2010 at 4:23 pm

We have a Christmas tree growing in our front yard. The lower branches make great schach and smell good too.Not too many pine needles fall off. Plant a tree in December and reap the benefits for many Sukkots to come! Hag Sameah!

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posted September 27, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Heard the worst story about this over the weekend. A husband who built the sukkah on a patch of poison oak, and used more for skhakh.

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Mara ~ Kosher on a Budget

posted September 27, 2010 at 8:03 pm

Yikes, Tzipoorah, that is awful!
We have those same berries growing up over our fence, and I’d foolishly hoped they were grapes. Nope, just some toxic berry. And those suckers stain!

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posted October 3, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Palms are used in Israel, but I doubt if they grow near you. How about speaking to some gardeners? Years ago, the Jerusalem Municipality would trim trees before the holiday and give out the branches for free. I remember fighting with yeshiva students for what we needed for our succah, then tying them to the baby carriage and dragging them home and up 3 flights of stairs.

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