October 2022 View Online

Dear Fellow Gardener

Welcome to the October 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.

It has been a huge month and I seem to have been away more than I have been home, but I have loved exploring my state, and taking others along for the ride, both in person and via social media. 

In this Newsletter

The ‘Never say Never’ Spring Open Garden 

Just like a John Farnham comeback tour, this spring open garden which is in just four weeks time, will be lots of fun and a great outing for all ages! It will have all the regular features of our open gardens with nurseries, societies and kids activities.  With Covid restrictions changing we no longer need to ask people to pre book tickets and we are looking forward to it working much more smoothly now that we will now be operating back at a regular pace.
  • 5th, 6th & 7th November
  • Tickets at the gate
  • 10am - 4pm
You will be able to keep up with updates to the garden including who is coming, how to get there etc on my website at

Food and Drinks

My amazing cake baker Sally has been concocting cakes from my home grown produce as always and we have settled on the three sorts that will be included in our cake tasting box (gluten free options available). They are pumpkin cake, chocolate beetroot cake and honey roasted quince blondie. This last one has been enjoyed by attendees of our small special events such as fruit tree workshops but it is definitely time to let more people try it. 
Example of Cake Box.  cakes may vary on the day.
I am also handing over the savoury food options to two other organisations which takes a whole lot of pressure off my amazing team who have worked tirelessly and willingly through our recent challenges. The last few times I have been focused on producing as much of produce as I could, and that was more than 350kg of my home grown vegies for one weekend! This time the savoury food options are vegetarian nachos from Waldorf School, or a traditional sausage sizzle from Rotary.

Partnering With Rotary Club of Mt Barker Supporting Operation Flinders

We are delighted to once again partner with the Rotary Club of Mt Barker who manage our parking. The funds they raise go to support Operation Flinders who were featured in SA’s Weekend recent article under the heading “How Operation Flinders is changing the lives of troubled teenagers in Outback South Australia” by Paul Ashenden.
To quote from the article…. 
“Operation Flinders participants are all SA teenagers whose lives are often at the crossroads.  They might come from dysfunctional families.  They might be victims of abuse. Their attendance at school might be waning.  They might have already found themselves on the wrong side of the law.  They might suffer from social anxiety and are struggling to find their niche.  They might have been bullied, or they might have been accused of bullying others.  Or they might simply have been falling behind at school. Regardless of specifics, all participants find themselves in life situations which are less than ideal and have been identified by their schools as needing a reset”.

 And to quote one participant… ‘’I just recommend it to anyone who does have a lot on their mind, or is going through a lot at home, at school, personally, mentally, physically, because it helps in so many ways.  It does get hard but in the end, the joy of getting to the final night where we are now…it’s just amazing!  
At Sophie’s Patch we continue to be delighted to be able to contribute to the welfare of the teens who attend Operation Flinders.
Down one of my many garden paths!

Pelzer Prize

I was totally honoured to receive Green Adelaide Pelzer Prize at the 2022 SA Environment Awards on Tuesday 27th September. Pelzer Prize is a new award for South Australia's green heroes, conservation leaders and champions of the environment, named in honour of Adelaide’s first city gardener – August Wilhelm Pelzer (1862-1934). He transformed the city landscape during his 33 years as head gardener, arresting the loss of trees in our parklands and planting thousands. 
Green Adelaide Board Presiding Member Professor Chris Daniels announced that:
"The renowned horticulturalist was recognised for her passionate commitment to gardening but more importantly conveying the benefits that accrue to our environment and overall community wellbeing.

“Sophie is a superb example of someone who has a tremendous love of nature, which is rivalled by her enthusiasm to make a practical difference,” 

“She has a fantastic ability to bring others along on the journey with her and inspires them to find small ways to make a difference too."
“We are thrilled to support the Pelzer Prize again this year and we congratulate and thank all of this year’s SA Environment Awards winners for their dedication to our environment.”
I am very humble to be in such fine company of those who received the commendations below:
Commendation for Application of Innovative Technology: Project Green Group Commendation for Community Park Management: David Ragless 
Commendation for Botanical Research: Neville Bonney 
Commendation for Regional and Remote Communities: Don Helbig 
Commendation for Landscapes for Wildlife: Danny Rohrlach
Commendation for Environmental Education: Rona Sakko
Commendation for Citizen Science: Stephen Fricke
Just like Pelzer, I am a gardener – in life, in work and in community, and I know I am totally blessed to have a vocation which is my passion and my life – gardening. I do feel totally blessed that I get to work doing something I love and am in a position of influence, so I truly believe I have a responsibility to make a difference. I am deeply passionate about:
  • Encouraging people to plant more trees or calling people out for cutting them down.
  • Helping people green up their urban spaces to mitigate the Urban Heat Island Effect.
  • Getting people to grow their own fruits, vegies and herbs for food security, taste and health benefits.
  • Encouraging people to design their gardens to create habitat for wildlife as a lack of habitat is the biggest threat to urban wildlife. 
  • Influencing people to nurture themselves with the amazing physical and mental health and wellbeing benefits that come from gardening and connecting with Nature.
Rather than tell people off, I want to demonstrate what can be done and create a picture of what is possible. I want to inspire people to change, rather than threaten them about what will happen if they don’t. I remember seeing some of my gardening heroes like Peter Cundall and Lolo Houbein be impatient, and as I get older, I know that feeling. We have no time to waste. We all have to make a difference, and we need to do so now. 

To read more about all the SA Environment Award winners visit

Around The Patch

Thankyou Amanda

Well, every time we have an Open Garden, I put a post up explaining that the garden won’t be perfect but to take it as you find it. This year up until autumn this year I have been the gardener with help from the kids and Rich, but since autumn I have had the help of the amazing Amanda as my travel and work commitments have increased. My schedule is not usually this crazy but many events and talks were cancelled last year due to COVID and then rolled over into this year.  It has made me twice as busy as I would normally be!  Amanda started out as one day a week but in recent times she has increased that to two days a week.

So, a big thank you from me to Amanda for her help in getting the garden up to scratch as I believe Open Garden visitors are well aware of the ongoing challenges!  This year some of my plants have died due to wet feet. Others are looking seedy and may yet come to grief. The reality is that the garden will do what it wants when it wants as we have no chance of controlling nature.  There really is no point in trying to fight the weather.  Better to accept and work with it! 


As the weather warms up so is the likelihood of aphids appearing in your garden.  While these sap sucking insects can be confronting, and large infestations can lead to bud deformation or defoliation, there is no need to reach for the garden hose, home made sprays or even the garden gloves.  Don't squash them, just observe closely and you will see garden guardians like parasitic wasps controlling these pests.   Read more about Aphids and how Nature controls them on this post.

Birds of Sophie’s Patch

My patch is a working property and while a lot of my patch is dedicated to produce, more of it is also planted to provide habitat for our insects, birds, bees and other creatures who provide a critical role in our environment, and who’s habitat is under increasing threat across the world.  When visitors come to Sophie’s Patch I love to show them the wildlife corridor, landscaping for lizards and other creatures, and the wide variety of flowers in the vegie patches for pollinating insects.  I also plant for food and safe habitat for birds, and this is a taste of who we have visiting in Spring.
Habitat was the theme of my 2017 Royal Adelaide Show Garden and I believe that our gardens should provide habitat to all the creatures that live there including birds, bees, butterflies, beneficial insects, reptiles, frogs, micro bats, and as importantly, humans.  If you want to include habitat planting as part of your patch, and I hope you do, there are more details about how to do it here 

The Flock

Somehow there always manages to be one.  I tried not to let my flock of geese grow this year, however this mummy goose managed to elude me and we have this gosling has quickly stolen our hearts.  I'm not naming him though as one pet goose (Zeus) who thinks she should be by my side at all times is enough! 

Orchard News

We've had unseasonable rain this winter, extending into spring, making the orchard feel wet and boggy underfoot.  Despite this as the days lengthen, and the temperatures creep upwards, the orchard is showing all the signs of springing into life with buds galore and early blossoms promising a bumper harvest.

Fertilising The Patch

I use organic fertiliser and with such a big, productive patch, use plenty of it.  We have spread lots of it over the productive and ornamental garden beds as well as adding our own compost and aged fowl yard manure to ensure soil vitality and plant nutrition.  Plants are fed regularly throughout the year according to their needs.  

Spring Flowering

Fertilising my patch is critical for the productive parts of my garden. The ornamentals love it too. Every day something new has started to bloom providing a kaleidoscope of ever changing colour.  Is Spring my favourite season?  I'm really not sure, however there is no doubt that Spring bling makes my heart sing.

Out and About

The day after I finished pulling down the my show garden at the Royal Adelaide Show  I headed to Port Augusta to talk at the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Gardens and then a week later I headed to Yorke Peninsula to do a talk at the Garden Shop in Moonta. Gardeners are a great bunch, and I always love talking to rural gardeners who often garden under harsh conditions, whether heat, wind, poor soil or another gardening challenge. 
A few days later I proudly started hosting a garden tour for Botanica Travel, taking a group of gardeners from interstate and NZ around my state, South Australia, taking them to some of my favourite places and some places I hadn’t yet been. 
We visited the Botanic Gardens in Adelaide, did a trip to my own garden ‘Sophie’s Patch’ and Hans Heysen’s ‘The Cedars’ at Hahndorf, before heading up north to visit The Australia Arid Lands Botanic Gardens at Port Augusta on our way up to the Ikara Flinders Ranges. We explored towns like Quorn, staying at the amazing Great Northern Lodge, and enjoyed a trip on the iconic Pitchi Ritchi Railway as well as visiting the Blinman Mine.
The Flinders Ranges are truly breathtaking and the natural history, geology, and flora and fauna incredible. On our way back from up north we stopped in the Clare Valley and visited Walter and Kaye Duncan’s amazing ‘The Heritage’ Garden at Sevenhill, as well as Bungaree Station and Martindale Hall
Often it is when we show others what is in our own state that we realise how lucky we are to have a great backyard! Check out my Facebook Posts to see s snapshot of our adventures.
I always look forward to opportunities to showcase our wonderful state to visitors as it is a truly special part of the world.

Coming Up 

I am travelling quite a bit more over the next month. On 15th and 16th October you will catch me at Goyder Gardens, the garden festival at Burra, doing a talk at the Serenity Garden Centre in Murray Bridge on the 22nd October and at the Rose Conference on 30th October.  
I am also doing a live Zoom workshop for Grow it Local on Thursday 13th October. Anyone around Australia can join me for this free event via
Stay tuned to my social media for other events closer to the time, and don’t forget that you can listen to talk back gardening on Radio 891 with the one and only Peter Goers on Sunday mornings after the 11am news.  We have lots of laughs and manage to answer some gardening questions too.

Newsletter Prize

We are offering two lucky readers a double pass which includes cake boxes to visit Sophie's Patch Open Garden one one of Saturday 5th, Sunday 6th or Monday 7th November.
Happy gardening!



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