With a growing hunger for both eating healthy and saving money, more and more Americans are grabbing their spades and starting their own vegetable gardens. Even the first family has caught the gardening bug. Michelle Obama has turned part of the South Lawn into a veggie patch with plans to grow everything from spinach to tomatillos.

Why the renewed interest in backyard produce?

Better-tasting food and saving money on food bills are the top two reasons people give for growing their own goodies, according to the National Gardening Association. This year, some 43 million U.S. households plan to grow fruits, vegetables, berries and herbs – up 19 percent from last year.

Walt Yates of Greenwood, S.C.-based Park Seed Company has seen the lettuce love. Vegetable seed sales have increased over the past two years and the 141-year-old seed company credits a yen for safer food, saving money and nostalgia.

“Many people fondly remember working in the garden with their parents or grandparents and they want their families to have that same rich experience,” he says. “This is why many seniors and parents have started gardening with their children and grandchildren. Also, even the pickiest kids will eat veggies that they help grow themselves.”

Mary Soroka of Clifton N.J., knows that firsthand. She tills a backyard vegetable garden with her daughter, Catiana, and watches the 9-year-old eat food right out of the yard when playing with her friends.

“She knows whatever she picks out of there she can just eat,” she says. “I’m trying to teach my daughter to use natural resources. I don't necessarily trust how produce is handled, even if it's organic.”

Soroka also figures she saves as much as $25 a week on produce because, in season, she harvests tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, three kinds of lettuce, beans and herbs parsley, basil, peppermint and grapes from her 2-foot-by-15-foot garden.

“If I have any extra room to plant anything, I make sure it’s edible like blueberries, strawberries or grapes,” she says. “If I had the money, I would have a small greenhouse built in my yard so that I would be able to grow year-round.”

Although you know what you’re getting when you pick food fresh from your backyard, technically you’re not always eating organic, says Daria Price Bowman, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Vegetable Gardening (Alpha Books, 2009).