March 2022 View Online

Dear Fellow Gardener

Welcome to the March 2022 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.

Where does the time go? It's now just 6 weeks till our 15th ….. and last….. open garden at Sophie’s Patch. In terms of the garden, it looks full, lush, and highly productive thanks to a milder summer and a favourable microclimate, which has only taken 10 years for me to develop. Hard to imagine that this was once a windswept paddock, where things dried out all year round and I still needed to water in winter due to the drying winds.

In This Newsletter

Open Garden At Sophie's Patch  - Finale

Richard, the kids, animals and I would love you to come and join with us at Easter…….to celebrate the finale of our Open Garden programme in its current form on Saturday 16th, Sunday 17th and Monday 18th April.   
As we announced in our last newsletter, after 10 years here at Hamlyn Cottage, and 14 open gardens, now it’s time for No. 15 and the time for us to call “Time” as we head for Easter 2022!   It’s been an amazing experience hosting so many wonderful people who have visited in person from all around Australia and foreign lands over this time.  Many have come several times and many, many more of you have joined us via social media in its different forms.
We are now busy working behind the scenes to prepare for our 15th, and final open garden. Well actually, not much work is getting done in the garden as I am too busy, but lots of planning is happening behind the scenes.

Special Visitor...

We are also incredibly excited to have a very special guest joining us for Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday. No it’s not the Easter Bunny, although he is a regular in the early hours of Easter Sunday at Sophie’s Patch. Costa Georgiadis will be returning to share his joy and passion for gardening and the environment which is a massive treat for all our garden visitors.
You can book your tickets online and the usual covid conditions apply. 

All info is available at and this will be updated regularly as the final details are confirmed. 

Kids Activities

We have confirmed that we will be running kids’ activities for all three days of our open garden. On Saturday it will be Nature craft making Nature crowns with Kate Hubmayer from Nature Crafts for Kids, on Sunday bug education with the wonderful Kristen Messenger from Bugs and Slugs, and on Monday, botanical prints with Faye and the team from Recreate.

Open Garden Food Options

Sweet Tasting Box

After much discussion within the Sophie’s Patch team and after asking the Facebook community, we have settled on Marbled Chocolate Zucchini Cake, Roasted Plum Slice and New Guinea Bean Cake. There were the options of our ever-popular Sophie’s Patch staples of pumpkin cake or beetroot cake, however since New Guinea beans are such an uncommon fruit, we thought we would go with these. 

Autumn Harvest Bowl

Made with Sophie’s Patch home grown produce, this delicious tasting bowl includes ancient seeds, grains and legumes salad with roasted seasonal vegetables; New Guinea Bean and Zucchini slice; Roasted garlic, leek, and potato dip and a slice of sourdough bread.  Gluten free options available. 

We will have limited numbers of these tasting boxes available for purchase each day of the open garden, however we do request that you prebook your choices along with your tickets, to avoid disappointment.

Other Gardens To Visit in SA

Don’t forget if you are coming to SA for the first time and want to visit a few other gardens while you are over here, do check out
Visiting other gardens gives us inspiration, motivation and ideas for what to do in our own garden and I thoroughly recommend that you keep an eye out for open gardens in your area. In SA we are very fortunate to have Open Gardens SA who have a great program of gardens from spring to autumn. Check out their program at and look out for country gardens too, as these gardeners often have more challenges to deal with than those in urban areas. 

Garden Tourism has recently launched and while it only covers SA at the moment, it’s is a one-stop shop of garden and nature-based events and destinations for garden enthusiasts world-wide. Find out what’s on, when, and where on this clearly presented and concise website brought to you by the Horticultural Media Association of SA (HMASA). Content is constantly being gathered for the website which includes events and experiences, destinations, Open Gardens SA, Garden Clubs and Associations plus special interest groups. All are hyperlinked to the relevant website for further information and, if necessary, bookings. There’s no cost to event organisers and tourism operators wishing to provide information and images via the links on the website. 

With the endorsement of and shared content from Botanic Gardens of SA, National Parks, Reservoirs SA, Open Gardens SA, Garden Clubs of Australia plus industry supporters, including Brunnings, Mr Fothergills, Neutrog and Peats Soils, it is envisaged that this project can only grow in scope and reach. “Garden tourism is the second fastest growing tourism section in the world today,” says Trevor Nottle, President HMASA. “Our industry is diverse and generous and we as a group are continually promoting our beautiful Botanic Gardens, our National Parks, walking tracks, private and Government historic gardens along with our open gardens for all to enjoy,” says Trevor. “The HMASA Tourism Sub-committee has assembled a knowledge base to deliver a philanthropic gift to the gardeners of South Australia and beyond.” Please direct any enquiries to Project Manager, Jacqui Harbison. E:

Around The Patch

Visitors to the property say the garden has grown heaps and is looking great, but as any open garden owner would say, “all I see is what needs to be done!”? This is never a perfect garden, and neither would I want it to be, however there are lots of jobs to be done, and the biggest amongst them are reclaiming paths so visitors can actually wander around freely, without having to squeeze through the forest of self-seeders which have invaded the paths. This year it’s the Amaranth, Verbena bonariensis and edible chrysanthemum, as well as the usual nasturtiums, calendulas and honeywort (Cerinthe) that have spread all over. I love self-seeders and they are an important part of my garden, however I have let them dominate, as for most of the year the plants at Sophie’s Patch get right of way. To read more about how I approach self-seeders visit . In the weeks leading up to each open garden, I pull them out to make the paths more accessible. 

In The Vegie Patch

The land of the giants

Not that size counts…… but everything seems to be growing to giant proportions at Sophie’s Patch at the moment. The most striking feature in the vegie patches now is the New Guinea bean arches. The main arch has 28 fruits left on it and some are up to 1.3m long and still growing. I will leave these on the vine till the open garden to give people the opportunity to get up close to these amazing giants. I am sure these were the inspiration for ‘Jack and the beanstalk’. Ok in reality this New Guinea bean is not a bean, but a climbing edible squash, and while I am at it, they are not even from New Guinea but Africa!? 
I have harvested trolley loads from this arch already which have been used to make our delicious New Guinea bean cake for the open garden sweet tasting box and we will also use the fruits in the slice/fritters in the savoury Autumn Harvest Bowl.  I have also used them in most meals in our kitchen, and in my breakfast vegetable juice in place of cucumber.

New Guinea Bean Recipes

For those who are not familiar with them, they are genuinely my favorite vegetable, beloved by cultures around the world and incredibly versatile in cooking. They are also brilliant at creating quick shade. Read more about them and a few recipes they can be used in at
It is quite amazing considering these arches were only planted in mid-November and by the end of January they had completely covered the arch with dense shady foliage. What the main arch will look like by Easter remains uncertain as the foliage is starting to be affected by powdery mildew. The second arch in the same vegie patch was planted later so it is still in vigorous healthy growth. 
The accidental planting is where Rose was collecting seeds from the dried beans, and obviously, some seeds must have dropped on the ground, and they grew, so rather than pull them out and waste them, I added a mesh panel for them to climb up. With no attention apart from some runoff water from the polyhouse, they smothered this 2m high panel and produced 11 large fruits. I have since added extra mesh as an arch hoping to create a shady alcove for our upcoming open garden.
These vines are frost tender so an early frost, which can occur at Sophie’s Patch in early April, will simply burn and blacken all the foliage. 

Onions and other Alliums

This past month has seen us do massive harvests of spring onions and leeks, as well as three varieties of normal bulbing onions. While I always grow leeks and spring onions, I don’t always grow bulbing onions as they take a bit of time to keep them weed free, and onions are relatively inexpensive to buy for the larger volumes our household goes through. However, whenever I do grow them, I am always amazed by what a difference home grown is in terms of flavour. They are absolutely delicious although the size is way too big for some households.
All of the ‘Red Shine’ onions were enormous, with one weighing 912g. I also grew a lot of ‘Baron’ and ‘Tropea Long Red’ and these were also massive. 
I have finally harvested the Egyptian walking onions which are my all-time favorite onion. Amazing, sweet flavor, wonderful in salads, roasted or incredible to make caramelized onion which can then be frozen. 


Yet again, these got away from me. One week I checked, and they weren’t quite big enough, and either the weeks got away from me, or I didn’t look properly, but by the time I harvested they were whoppers, with the largest ‘Chioggia’ coming in at just over 1.5kg. This variety has the stunning rings of red and white when you cut the root and this giant is still edible and useful to make a delicious white chocolate beetroot cake. I also grew ‘Golden Detroit’ and ‘Four Aces’ and these too will be used in the kitchen or for future cakes. Beets are a staple in our vegie patch and I love to use them fresh in my breakfast juice, or roasted for dips or salads. 

Giant Zucchini

And finally, leaving the biggest for last, a self-seeded zucchini has produced the most enormous fruit of at least 12kg, and its still growing!? It’s a special variety called ‘Caesar’ bred by a friend in Victoria. Last year I grew one which weighed 6.3kg and is the official ‘Heaviest Zucchini marrow [Courgette]’ in Australia as certified by the Australian Giant Pumpkin and Vegetable Supporters  This year I didn’t get around to sowing any, yet this one self-seeded where it grew last year. While I have been harvesting the fruits regularly, one had gotten away from me and looks bigger than last year, at over 50cm long. I will leave it to grow as big as it wants before harvesting and weighing it, but I hope it will keep me as the Australian record holder!? To get it officially certified you need to take it to a post office and get a statutory declaration signed by them. See this Facebook past from last year By the way, despite these whopping large fruits, it’s a good variety and is still very edible.  

Elsewhere in the Vegie Patch


There are still way more green tomatoes than there are ripe ones, and I know I am not alone with this challenge. We are all hoping for an extended mild autumn to allow for maximum ripening, but I suspect those in frosty areas may need to have a plan for green tomatoes. I have a great recipe for green tomato cake if you want an alternative to pickle, as how much green tomato pickle can you actually eat?  I also have tips for getting tomatoes to ripen on the vine but out of the ground. Check it out at 


The tomatillos have finally started to ripen and so I am harvesting the sweet yellow variety called ‘Amaryla’ which when they are fully formed come off in my hand when I tickle them. These will be used to make delicious cakes with my green tomato cake recipe while the green varieties will be used in savoury dishes in the kitchen, or roasted and frozen for future use. 

In the Orchard

In the orchard, we have harvested three of the four varieties of prune trees which we grow. For those who are not familiar with prunes, these are small, blue skinned, European plum varieties chosen for their high sugar content. When fully ripe, they are like eating lollies! The apples and pears are just starting and the quinces won’t be long either. I love the fruits of autumn!


Vermin (mice and rats) continue to share our crops in the orchard and some of our ripe tomatoes. Grrr! Last year the rats had a ball eating out the pumpkins on the main arch in the vegie patch, and we even managed to get a photo of one at the start of the first day of last year’s Easter Open Garden! Thank goodness they haven’t started on the New Guinea beans on the main arch in the vegie patch, although something did have a go at several of the New Guinea beans grown on the top deck of Grow Up, which were an experiment to see how far they would grow and cover when grown in large self-watering pots.   You can see more here.

Harlequin Bugs

These sap sucking insects are black and red or black and orange and while a few don’t hurt, they can cause damage when they are in great numbers. They can cause new growth to wilt and die when they suck a plant’s sap. They can also suck the sap of fruit such as tomatoes and cause the fruit to discolour, become blotchy, and go hard and unpleasant. When they have been bad, some of my tomatoes end up looking semi-sundried!? The adults are often seen in pairs joined end to end. They often appear in swarms on a wide range of plants as the weather starts to warm up. 
Their natural defence mechanism is to drop to the ground when disturbed, so use this to your advantage by having a bucket of soapy water under the branch and then lightly tapping the branch. The offending bugs will drop off whilst other beneficial insects hold on tighter and do not get affected. The aim is not to eliminate them completely but rather reduce their numbers significantly. If you see a swarm of them you could also try to dust them with Diatomaceous Earth, which is an abrasive insecticide and will cause their death, however it will also affect any other bugs you dust with it, so take care to only treat the pests. 
Years ago, I discovered they overwintered on marshmallow, so I have been slowly waging war on this weed around two-acre garden (not yet dealt with everything in the paddock though!?). last autumn I discovered that they also harbour on a groundcover I had let grow in my orchard, thinking it was harmless. I know this plant is a weed called Modiola caroliniana in the mallow family, commonly called red-flowered mallow. So long term, wage war on the weeds they harbour on and the pest problem will be reduced. 

Special Events

We have run five fun summer pruning workshops over the past month and the next Sophie’s Patch workshops will be satellite events held up at Clare on the Saturday 2nd April as part of the SA Autumn Garden Festival weekend. 

Starting Your Patch From Scratch - Clare Saturday 2nd April

On the Saturday morning from 10am till 1pm we will run a ‘Starting Your Patch From Scratch’ workshop. This interactive workshop will teach you the fundamentals of creating your perfect sustainable property and understand how to develop a master plan ensuring success. It will cover zoning concepts to help you manage water use and create microclimates for more enjoyable living, the basics of soil improvement, optimal planting times, work out where to locate productive patches such as vegie gardens and fruit trees, incorporate fowls, bees and beneficial bugs……………… and much more.

Succulent Art - Clare Saturday 2nd April

That afternoon we will then run a succulent art workshop from 2 till 4.30pm where attendees will make a succulent picture frame. Lorraine Thompson from Hillside Herbs and Succulents will lead this hands-on workshop… with the frame, succulents and everything else you need provided.
We will be serving delicious morning or afternoon tea at these events with our yummy Sophie’s Patch cakes made from our own, home grown produce. 

Winter Workshops 

How to prepare, plant and prune deciduous fruit trees   

June  17th, 18th and 19th June from 9.30-12.30
Bare rooted fruit trees will be available in nurseries and garden centres in June. Winter is a great time to buy these deciduous fruit trees as they are cheaper, easier to handle, and you can create a great shape from the beginning. To tie in with bare root season, we are running three workshops at  Sophie’s Patch on the 17th, 18th and 19th June. Whether you have a small garden with just a few fruit trees, or you want a large orchard, winter is the time to plant deciduous fruit trees. This workshop will look at the soil preparation, planting and training of young deciduous fruit trees. Winter is also a traditional time to prune deciduous fruit trees. We will also show you how to maintain mature fruit trees, cleaning up and pruning, to shape trees, minimise disease and maximise fruit production. Orchard and soil health, fertilising and watering will be covered. To share their breadth of knowledge we have passionate fruit tree grower and member of the Rare Fruit Society Chris Day from Every Day Sustainable Living and fifth generation orchardist Wez Redden, who has been helping me with fruit tree pruning for more than 20 years in my orchard here and at other properties. Numbers are strictly limited so book early.
Order Winter Pruning Workshop Tickets Here

Grafting workshops

29th or 30th July 2022
Want to learn the skill of grafting? It is a great way to create your own fruit trees, start a home orchard on a budget, grow rare or old-fashioned varieties, or create multi-graft fruit salad trees (multiple varieties on one tree). Our fruit tree grafting workshop at Sophie’s Patch is coming up on the 29th and 30th July, run by fruit tree experts and master grafters Wez Redden and Chris Day. The workshops will include the theory of grafting but mostly it will be hands on with each attendee getting to graft and take home three deciduous fruit trees – most likely an apple, a pear, and a plum (or peach) with a choice of many different scions or fruit cultivars.  We will be providing quality grafting knives for you to use on the day and you get to take them home with you for future grafting. This workshop runs from 9.30am until 12:30 and includes morning tea with yummy cakes made from our own home grown fruit.

Numbers are strictly limited so bookings essential.
Order Grafting Fruit Trees Workshop Tickets Here
Our Sophie's Patch workshops will be held under COVID regulations inside the shed and out in the orchard at Sophie's Patch and includes delicious morning tea with home baked fruit themed slices and cakes made with my orchard produce.  Numbers are strictly limited and bookings essential.
All the details are available on my website 

Out and About


I have had a couple of fun days filming for Gardening Australia including one in an amazing garden created by garden designer Jamie McIllwain as a ‘look book’ for his clients. Be sure to watch out for this garden when it is open in spring as part of the Open Gardens SA program at Here are a few pics from the day as a teaser…… 

Other events

Over the next few weeks, I am out and about, visiting Bute for the 100 year celebration of the Bute Soldiers’ Memorial Hall  , Deniliquin for the Naponda Garden Expo and Clare for their SA Autumn Garden Festival

Talkback Gardening

Finally, I am back doing weekly gardening talkback radio with the one and only Peter Goers on ABC Radio. Tune in each week on Sunday mornings from after the 11am news till 12 noon. Peter and I always have a lot of fun and laughs… .and even manage to answer a few gardening questions. Tune in via ABC Radio 891 or log in via
Stay tuned to my social media or website for other events closer to the time, and don’t forget that our next open garden is over Easter Saturday to Easter Monday 16th to 18th April. 

Newsletter Prize

This month's newsletter prize is two tickets to our open garden plus a cake box for two lucky winners.  The randomly selected winner will be notified by email and have a week to accept before it is offered to another subscriber.
Happy gardening!



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