April 2021 View Online

Dear Fellow Gardener

Welcome to the April 2021 newsletter from Sophie's Patch in the Adelaide Hills, SA. Each month I share what has been happening in and around my patch of garden in the Adelaide Hills, as well as some of my adventures further afield.  I hope you enjoy reading it. Sophie Thomson.

sophie thomson
Time flies by and again so much has happened since our last monthly Sophie’s Patch newsletter. While the next edition would be due out on Easter Sunday (it’s usually the first Sunday of the month), I reckon I will be a bit busy with Easter Open Garden 😊, so we are sending out a small edition tonight to keep you up to date. 

In this Newsletter

In six days we open our garden for you to visit and enjoy.

I would love to see you at Sophie's Patch as like minded people join together to celebrate all things gardening!   

It is a garden for both new and experienced gardeners to visit and is a time to explore the changes that have taken place at Sophie's Patch.  

Easter Saturday, Sunday & Monday 10am - 4pm. 
A preview of what to expect at Easter

Around the Patch

autumn colour
Autumn has arrived at Sophie’s Patch and for the first time I can remember, I wish we had another month of summer heat. Tones of red, orange and golden are appearing around the garden and the autumn days have been delightful. We have had a few showers which is heaven to wash the dust off, even though the garden is still bone dry and needs significant rain. There are cracks in our paddock which you can plunge your hands into. This garden certainly experiences extremes of climate and temperature. 

In the Vegie Patch



Overall, my tomatoes have been disappointing, even though I am sure I have harvested a bounty compared to many. In hindsight, the cooler than usual summer nights, combined with me watering after dark (it’s often the only time I am around) meant we have experienced more fungal diseases than ever before. Tomato russet mite also affected the plants towards the end of the season as it has always done, so in the end vanity has gotten the best of me and I have pulled most of my plants out so people can’t see how awful they looked in the garden. It’s amazing how logic goes out the window the week before an open garden! Most plants have been hung to allow the unripe green fruit to continue to ripen.

The polyhouse tomatoes however have been fabulous, with Thai Green Egg continuing to fruit well even though the plants look rather awful. Tiny Tim are still fruiting on plants less than 30cm high and there is still one Burnley Bounty planted last July which continues to fruit and new plantings of this same variety are starting to take off. Burnley Bounty is a cool season tomato that can fruit through winter in a mild climate, such as the Adelaide Plains ………… or my polyhouse.
tomato plants
tomato plants

Extended Cropping

I have transplanted some small eggplants into one bed to see if they too will continue to crop through the cooler weather and one bed is planted with chilies and my hope for these is the same. Other beds in the polyhouse are planted with ginger, turmeric, celery, and Asian greens. Edible flowers like nasturtiums spill over beds and add cheer. 

Vertical Vegies

The vertical vegies are looking great, with the New Guinea bean wall fruiting well and at last the Caigua has taken off and fruits are forming. Whether this will come to much is entirely dependent on when our frosts start. At last, the chokos have taken off, however there is no sign of fruits and again the frosts will determine the outcome. The tromboncino arches look great however the mice are making a mockery of my pumpkin arch in the main vegie patch. Grrrrrr! I know that mice are bad in many areas now. They obviously liked the cooler summer!?. I almost don't want to write that they haven’t discovered the giant pumpkin yet – but maybe they will before open garden. Oooooh – I hope not!
mouse in pumpkin
new guinea bean

Open Garden - Easter 2021

Book Open Garden Tickets Here
I'm looking forward to opening Sophie's Patch to visitors this Easter.  At the open garden you can explore Sophie's Patch, learn about water wise gardening, ask questions of garden experts and organisations, shop, and enjoy Autumn in the Adelaide Hills.  Some people come for an hour, others spend all day and enjoy lunch and afternoon tea. 

Garden Art

We will have our garden art available, including our new and delightful geese and goslings.  Recreate will also be here with their range of upcycled garden art to purchase.

Garden Experts, Environmental Organisations and Nurseries....

As always there will be experts on hand to answer all your questions on climate compatible gardening, butterfly gardening, bee keeping, birdscaping and vegie growing as well as the nurseries that stock the diverse range of hardy and unusual plants that grow in my garden.
As well as the nurseries, we will have garden helpers who are experts in their garden specialisation throughout the day who are great 'go to' people with garden questions, and of course I really look forward to meeting lots of you who attend.

Food and Drinks...


Savoury Boxes

For the second time Chef Heather Hristovski has come up with a delightful menu to tempt you based on produce from Sophie's Patch.  To be sure of getting your hands on one you can order online, or take the chance on one being available on the day.  (Boxes are vegetarian and gluten free boxes are available to order.) 

This open garden's savoury taster boxes include:
  • Basil and Chard Yoghurt Flat Bread 
  • Roasted Beetroot Hummus
  • Roasted Summer Crop Tortilla
  • Roasted Pumpkin and Tomato Arancini
  • Zucchini, Spanish Red Onion and Chilli Pickle

Sweet Boxes

Our cake tasting boxes are big enough for two to share, or one hungry person.  They contain three pieces of Sophie's Patch cakes made with produce from my garden.  Gluten free cake boxes are available.


Tea, Coffee and cool drinks are available from the Sophie's Patch outdoor kitchen by the house, or barista coffee is available from Country Blends Coffee Van who will also be selling iced coffee and chocolates.

Remember to BYO Full water bottle.  We will not be selling water in plastic bottles at the Open Garden.  

Food bookings

To guarantee your savoury or sweet tasting boxes made with produce from Sophie's Patch are available you need to book by Wednesday 31st March.  There will be limited boxes available for purchase on the day.  Gluten Free options available and both boxes are vegetarian.

Kids Activities

There will be different kids activities on each day including nature craft, botanical prints and bug education. 

Booking Open Garden Tickets

Once again we are asking people to book their tickets to the open garden.  This allows us to cater without waste, make sure we have enough volunteers and arrange the garden so everyone gets the best possible experience.  It also helps us with our further planning.

You can book tickets online  


Last minute bookings

If you are a spur of the moment type of person you can purchase your tickets at the gate.  

Our Environmental Commitment

Turning Open Garden packaging back into gardens!

Composting packaging and food waste

When you buy coffee, a savoury box or a sweet box at our open garden all the packaging is commercially compostable.  We send it off to Jeffries in compostable bags and they use this to turn into compost and soil.  

Coffee cup composting

Even coffee bought from our barista helps create new gardens.  The grounds are added to the Jeffries bins, while the disposable coffee cups can be given to Eco Enviro Concepts who use them to make compostable seed containers.  

If you have a stack of used coffee cups at home you can bring them to the garden to give to Flavia from Eco Enviro Concepts.

Use your BYO Water Bottle and Keep Cup

We encourage all our visitors to BYO Water Bottle and Keep Cup.  This year we are not selling bottled water at Sophie's Patch. 

Out and About

Coonalpyn Community Garden Opening

Over the last month, I was delighted to be asked to open the community garden at Coonalpyn, so my daughter Rose and I made a road trip of it. This little country town on the way to Melbourne, is best known for its amazing silo art, and the community garden has been developed at the community centre to strengthen connections within the community.
sophie and children

SACWA Limestone Ladies Events

We then continued down the south east to Naracoorte for a series of events focused on self-sufficiency, sustainability, and the environment, initiated by SACWA Limestone Ladies Branch.
limestone ladies
One was an open garden and market day where over 250 people braved drizzly weather to attend the lovely country garden owned by Kate and Craig Gilbert. There were lots of market stalls with all sorts of fabulous products, produce and plants to buy and the refreshments served by the CWA ladies were delicious. While I was there, I also spent a day in two of the local primary schools and was so impressed with the students and teachers I met. With the right support and leadership, school gardens are incredible tools for learning and caring for the environment, now and into the future. 

Rowan from Garden Larder

While down there I also caught up with one of my favourite gardeners with a passion for vegies – Rowan from Garden Larder, who is based at Casterton, just across the border and who drove to Naracoorte to catch up. I first met her several years ago when she used to grow and breed a wide variety of vegies, including many I had never heard of before. Her seed business is where I first got Caigua and the different Tomatillo varieties I absolutely love. However now, she has given up other vegies and focuses on her potato breeding and selection program with some amazing results – check out her website at There is something about catching up with likeminded gardeners, that is both exciting and energising. 
Sophie and Rowan

Kangaroo Island Recovery - 1 year on....

I have also spent five days on Kangaroo Island, delivering more garden workshops for gardeners on the Island, with a focus on those affected by fire and those aiding their recovery. This visit was timed so we could celebrate a year on in the Parndana Community garden which we set up in March 2020 and I could also be part of Junction Australia’s 5th birthday celebration for the Community Centre and Community garden in Kingscote.
As always, I headed over with a Ute load of plants donated by the Nursery and Garden Industry of SA – this time there were seedlings of vegies and winter cheer, native plants, and heritage roses. While I gave some away while I was there, most are distributed by Anne Morrison, president of the Kangaroo Island Garden Club. She has been coordinating the requests for donated nursery plants, fertilizer, compost, mulch, and other garden products for the past twelve months and emails fire affected gardeners at least once a month to keep in touch with what is happening. 
Recovery is a long process and most of those who lost their homes in last summers’ devastating fire, are likely to be in a new home by the end of the year, two years after the fire passed through. While those who lost their gardens have been able to replant, those who are only just building are yet to start, so I am committed to helping them replant their gardens and put their roots down. At this time, my heart is also with those elsewhere in Australia recovering from fire, as well as dealing with floods and drought.

Parndana Community Garden

When I visit the Parndana Community Garden and see it so productive and full of life, I marvel at what an amazing milestone it is to have reached one year through the craziness of the past twelve months whilst dealing with bushfire recovery and COVID. It’s a long road to recovery, however having access to fresh produce and soil to play in at the community garden is healing in itself. The garden would not exist without the amazing efforts of garden guardians Denis and Maree Perkins who visit it daily. However, as time passes, they are handing over the reins and other community members will take over and share the process of running and caring for the garden. It continues to supply produce to locals in the town and those on the western end of the Island and it is a great example of how a community garden is about so much more than just growing produce – they grow community. 
Every time I am on the island, I marvel at what an amazingly strong, resilient, and connected community Islanders are, particularly on the western end. It has been such a privilege to be able to help them get their gardens up and growing again, and I will be forever grateful for the experience. There have been lots of laughs, great conversations, inspiration shared, and new ideas brewed …….and I go home with more than I feel I have given. Anne Morrison often tells me that she feels the same way telling me "I’m doing a relatively small but practical job, and I get a big reward when I see people leave with a smile on their faces, as well as a gift from one of our wonderful donors".

Junction Australia’s Community Centre at Kingscote

While attending the 5th birthday celebration of the Junction Australia’s Community Centre at Kingscote which has created the Kingscote Community Garden, I was reminded how important community centres are. They deliver so many vital services and programs and are all about collaborating, connecting and learning, which is what community gardens are all about too. As I said before Community gardens are about so much more than growing food - they are about growing strong, resilient, connected communities. I was blown away by this amazing mosaic wall hanging I was presented as a thank you for helping the Islands gardens grow and gardeners recover. The #mosaic ladies at the community garden made it and I shall treasure it as it hangs inside the front door of my home.

Driving the Hills and Country

I love driving in the Hills and country, and wherever I am, whatever the weather, it makes my heart sing. Every scene is picture perfect, and I often think of how blessed I am to be out and about and see this beautiful land. I am always tempted to stop and take a photo, but I want to do that every few minutes and I would never make it there, or home!?  

Filming at The Salopian Inn and its market garden

I have had a fun couple of days filming for Gardening Australia in the past few weeks. 
One day we filmed at the Salopian Inn and at its own amazing market garden, that supplies 70% of its produce during the warmer months and 30% in winter. The restaurant is famous for its seasonal cuisine and it was fascinating to speak with Head Chef Karena Armstong and her secret weapon, market gardener Maddie Aird.
The integrity in what they are doing is so impressive, from their commitment to sustainability and no wastage to the high production they get out of their half acre Vegie patch which is surrounded by fruit trees. The food the restaurant produces is spectacular, and I also learnt lots I can put into practice to sustain the high rotation I am doing in the vegie garden here at Sophie’s Patch, from the importance of resting 20% of beds each year to the fact you can use Orach flowers as a garnish, as it’s my first year of growing this leafy green here.  
We also spent a day filming a story about filling in some of the gaps along my wildlife corridor which runs along the high side of my driveway. The next day when I had some time free I filled in all of the gaps with a total of 65 new plants going in. 

Coming Up 

Stay tuned to my calendar for other events closer to the time, and don’t forget that our next open garden is over Easter Saturday to Easter Monday 3rd to 5th April. 

Group Tours

We are taking bookings for group tours of our garden. As I have mentioned before, I think doing a group tour of my garden is the best way to see it, as it is much more intimate and interactive.  These groups have a personal tour of my garden followed by afternoon tea or coffee with delicious home baked cakes made from our home grown produce. If you can get a group of 30 or more people together from your social, interest or council group or plant society, contact me 
tour group

Newsletter Prize

Two subscribers will be offered two tickets to the Easter Open Garden with a sweet tasting box to share.  Winners will be drawn on Monday and Tuesday.
Happy gardening!



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