Wondering about covered gardens?

You're not the only one.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a covered garden?

A covered garden is a simple structure that is typically made from a series of “hoop-shaped” PVC or metal piping covered with thick plastic sheeting that is stretched snugly over the hoop frame and fastened snugly to the base. The purpose of a covered garden is to extend the growing season so that vegetables and herbs can be grown during the colder months.

Why does one need a covered garden?

The Chicago area has a short growing season. Covered gardens are the best device for vegetable growers to extend the growing season by warming the soil and protecting plants from excessive exposure to cold and frost. The Chicago Botanic Garden’s website has other information on covered gardens as well as other types of growing season extension devices here.

Why not just have a greenhouse?

Greenhouses are permissible in Elmhurst, but do not serve the same function as hoop houses or other temporary growing season extension devices. Greenhouses become very hot in the summertime and are not conducive to gardening, even when vented (think of a car in August with the windows rolled down). Additionally, greenhouses are very expensive to install and require a concrete slab foundation. Considering Elmhurst’s stormwater concerns, a hoop house is much more beneficial for the community since it does not require an impermeable footprint.

What problems did the covered gardens cause for the neighbors?

One immediate neighbor has claimed the covered garden was loud and caused much distress for their family. The Virgils polled the other neighbors within two blocks of their house in all directions and found that this one distressed neighbor stood alone. Dozens of neighbors have testified their support for the covered garden in writing and in person at public meetings that they did not find the covered garden or the Virgil's gardening activities to be a noise disturbance or other kind of nuisance. See what the neighbors have to say here & here.

Isn’t there something smaller that can do the job?

Covered gardens exist to serve a specific function. They extend the growing season for fall crops which can be 4’-5’ or taller come November. They also provide space for the gardener to tend the soil in February/March due to the increased temperature inside the structure. The gardener needs room to stand up in order to work. Additionally, there needs to be enough volume of air heated by the sun to keep the soil and plants sufficiently warm. Currently, the City of Chicago provides for up to 575 sq. foot hoop house on individual residential lots - far larger than the Virgil’s covered garden (which was 360 square feet.) ​

I heard the covered garden was part of a commercial operation in a residential zone.

The Virgil's covered garden was in use between the late October/early November through March (give or take) depending on the warmth of the season. Their two children have run a City-approved garden stand for 3 hours on Saturday mornings between June & September, (notably, when the hoop house is not in use). City Planner, Than Werner, was consulted twice when the endeavor was started, and stated that, “The City does not regulate children’s businesses. This is a glorified lemonade stand.” ​

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