By People Staff
April 20, 2009 12:00 PM

The neighbors were confused: One day the adjacent lawns of Kelly and Michael Sandman and Allison Collins and Justin Rooney had dirt where grass had been. “People were sympathetic,” says Collins, 37, a massage therapist. “They thought someone had torn up our yard as a prank.” It was no joke: The two couples gave up their suburban landscaping to make way for communal beans, herbs, sweet potatoes, cabbage, broccoli and cantaloupe.

With food prices rising and money tight, lawn gardens have taken off. This spring, 7 million U.S. households—including the First Family—plan to plant one, up 19% over last year, says the National Gardening Association. The experiment was a success, says Kelly, 33, a woodworker. Besides yielding a bounty of produce, she says, the garden “makes me feel rooted.”