It’s time to grill sausages and talk about hopes and plans for the plot

Good gardening is also about good eating | Allan Jenkins | Life and style
Outdoors feast: charred asparagus and peppers from the spring barbecue. Photograph: Allan Jenkins/The Observer

Spring barbecue, the tribal gathering. The collecting together of the allotment community after winter. Much strimming and sweeping of sheds and paths, cutting back overgrown spillage, sorting through the compost bays. With sausages, spicy chicken, vegetarian options.

It is the busiest day of the year so far. Tables are laid with an oilskin cloth. Chairs are cleaned, early summer flowers gathered for a jug: borage, dandelion, bluebells and forget-me-nots. There is a carpet of them, the beauty of benign neglect from a neighbour no longer with us. This was a favourite plot, a couple of fruit trees, a few cardoons, a quiet sitting space against a warming wall. It is more productive now, feeding a family, vines and yellow marigolds, a different beauty.

The churn of new arrivals here is slow, Camden’s allotment waiting list shuddered to a halt a few years ago. More plots are divided now, more allotment holders have helpers.

Barbecues are our time of meeting, with talking over of plans, the search for inspiration. Kettles are boiled, gas canisters refreshed, everything scrubbed. Chicken and vegetables are marinated. A community fed.

I man the flames, move sausages around. A pleasing char chore under the trees. It is beautiful here. People arrive bearing gifts: aubergines, peppers, asparagus, good bread and cheese. There is always a spicy chutney made from last season’s summer squash or pumpkins. It is always delicious.

Later in the year there will be other meals, people will bring food from their plot, the talk will be of successes and failures. For now, though, thoughts are of what seeds to sow, when best to bring out the bean poles, the promise of another year. Belonging grows here among other gardeners.

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