Reading Landscapes #02

Edition 2 of our monthly newsletter series

Good morning, and welcome to the second edition of our monthly newsletter, Reading Landscapes.

Before we start today, I’d like to thank you for the fantastic feedback we received from the first edition. It is so fulfilling to know how well-received it was and what you all got out of it.

We look forward to continually providing this well-rounded resource to our community.

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Here’s what we’ve got for you today:

  • Chain mailing in your lawn

  • Lantana, a contentious plant

  • Flat or steep, we can manage our landscapes in both environments

  • What we’ve been learning

🔎 Looking at the Landscape

Like us to discuss a photo of your landscape? Share it with us here. 

Nature’s Contouring

Thanks to Normie for sending in this edition’s image, which sets us on a journey to read a landscape from a straightforward process.

Chain Mailing

Everything in the landscape works from Micro to Macro, meaning the patterns and processes can be seen in small to large versions. The same things are happening across all of them, just at different levels of scale.

A great example of this is lawn clippings after a rain event. As you can see in the photos, nature has organised them into their own contours. In trying to manage the flowing water and take away its energy, it has picked up what it could carry and, at some point, hit something that caused the energy of the water to be lost and allowed for materials to be dropped over time. This has built up and spread along that level line built by the water.

We call this micro process chain mailing, as often you will come out after a rain event and see hundreds of these small natural contour banks across your lawn with a look similar to chain mailing.

A larger example of chain mailing with lawn clippings

Looking at examples like the images below in the micro is excellent for learning to read a landscape.

The image above is an excellent example of the steps of a landscape. A little mulch bank has been built with a pond behind it. That mulch bank is a step in the landscape. The landscape goes down below it, and behind it is an area of relatively flat land (the pond) before rising to another step. That pattern continues across the whole area.

These steps are nature’s design for managing water and fertility.

Not only do these little mulch contours explain to you the way water moves through a landscape, but they also explain how contour lines work and what they show about a landscape’s shape.

A contour line bends and meanders across a landscape's high and low parts. This image shows how, at a low point, a contour moves up a landscape, and at a high point, it moves down a landscape to ensure that it stays level. It appears exactly how it appears on a topographic contour map with those meandering lines.

By looking at these images and how the mulch is laid out, you can determine how the water moves and where the landscape's high and low points are. You can begin to read a landscape.

🌳 Learning from Plants

Have a plant you’d like to discuss? Share it with us here.


Common Names: Lantana, Shrub Verbena, Spanish Flag, Big-Sage

Scientific Name: Lantana camara

Where in the Succession: Early to Mid Succession Accumulator

What is it telling me about my landscape?

Lantana is a woody pioneer species in the early to mid-succession accumulator series. They will often grow in harder landscapes that would have once been or still are vegetated by woody species (like trees).

Why is the Lantana growing?

  • The area was most likely once timbered, and it is coming in to create the woody vegetation environment once more

  • Soil organic matter is most often relatively low

  • The hydrological function is not operating effectively

Several studies have found that the soil beneath where Lantana is growing to be higher than surrounding areas in

Overall, studies have found Lantana to improve soil fertility and nutrient cycling in the locations where it grows.

Now, by better understanding why Lantana is growing, how can we manage it;

  • Mulch the lantana and, if possible, spread it along level contour lines to manage water while also breaking down and feeding the landscape with its fertility. Plus, Lantana doesn’t enjoy growing in its own residue.

  • Look to build our soil's organic matter levels

  • Restore the two critical processes of hydrology and nutrient cycling

  • Manage the lantana with our grazing patterns; maybe try incorporating browsing species like goats

The juggle between earning a living and managing a plant like Lantana must always be examined. The best way to overcome this is to remember that by removing that plant, you need to fill in and complete the role it was looking to achieve.

Lantana is also a good attractant for pollinator species, which play an essential role in our landscape.

How to make the most of your Lantana

🪨 As a Soil Indicator: Low humus levels and organic matter. Very low Calcium, Very low Phosphorus, Very high Potassium, High Magnesium, High Manganese, Very high Iron, High Boron, and High Aluminium levels.

🐮 Livestock: Commonly considered a toxic plant that can cause photosensitisation in livestock and poisoning. Lantana has shown the ability to provide nutritional benefits to livestock in small doses. Studies have shown Lantana to be high in crude protein (24%) and minerals like copper, sulphur, and calcium. A further study has researched using goats as a management tool for Lantana, as they have proven to show fewer effects to its toxicity compared to other livestock.
Through observation over the years, I have regularly seen livestock selectively grazing small amounts of Lantana - most likely self-medicating for deficiencies in specific minerals.

💊 Medicinal: Lantana has a long history of being used traditionally for various medicinal purposes, treating conditions such as;

  • Malaria

  • Chickenpox

  • Ulcers

  • Sores

  • Fevers

More recent studies have looked into the potential for Lantana to be used for its antibacterial and anti-aging properties, with excellent results seen.

🍽️ Consumption: Mostly deemed toxic. In some cultures around the world, the berries are eaten when ripe (must be ripe) and used in cooking.

Learn Natural Sequence Farming in 2024

Upcoming events open for enrolment

Learn Natural Sequence Farming 4-Day Course

Avenel VIC 25 - 28 March

Sunshine Coast QLD 17 - 20 June

Charleville QLD 29 July - 1 August

Inverell NSW 2 - 5 September

Springsure QLD 23 - 26 September

Introduction to Natural Sequence Farming Field Day

Ripple Farm TAS 15 March

Kyneton VIC 22 March

🙋 Answering your Questions

Ask the Team! Share your question here, and we’ll answer it in a future newsletter.

💬 John Asks:

When wanting to implement Natural Sequence Farming, does it matter whether the land is steep or flat? Can it be implemented on both?

🎙️ Hamish’s Answer:

Yes, we can implement practices across all landscape types.

The way we like to think about it is that wherever rain falls, Natural Sequence Farming can be implemented. Nature doesn’t care about the gradient of a landscape, how steep or flat it is. Water will still move, and a landscape's natural patterns and processes will remain.

What changes across these landscape types is the works we implement, the design we choose to follow and the locations we implement in. When reading a landscape, you can find the answers to these questions.

A common example we like to share is that when building contours, we look to implement these on the steps of a landscape, and, like a ladder, the steeper the landscape, the more steps and the flatter the landscape, the fewer steps. So when comparing the implementation between flat and steeper landscapes, often the easiest way to think about it is that everything just gets stretched out and further apart in a flat landscape. And on a steeper landscape, they will be more frequent.

However, the ultimate design and choices behind implementation will always come down to observation and time.

🧩 Trivia Time

Have a crack at this week’s question!

Based on the statement below, what do you think the average of these Strzelecki samples was (rounded)?

Today, Australia has an average soil organic matter measurement of around 2%. Over the period of 1839 to 1843, Polish explorer and geologist Sir Paul Edmund Strzelecki took 41 samples across Australia of soil organic matter^*

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📚 What We’ve Been Learning

A quick list of our favourite things we’ve been watching, reading, listening, and writing.

CO2 vs. Water Vapour - Heat Dynamics of Earth: A member of the TPT team, Shane Joyce, shared an excellent example in our graduate community last week of the role that water vapour and CO2 play in the heat dynamics of Earth.

How Plants Cool the Planet: An excellent video following on from Shane’s post discussing the small water cycle and, like Peter Andrews has long said, that all plants are the solution.

Grazing Grass Podcast e80. Greening the Desert with Alejandro Carrillo: An interesting podcast sharing desert rancher Alejandro Carrillo’s insights and experiences managing harsh landscapes. His focus on maximising the diversity of plants and animals was a standout to me, with a particular interest in wanting more than just grasses in his pastures.

The Diary of a CEO - The 33 Laws of Business and Life: I have just finished listening to the audiobook version of this. An excellent short and insightful listen full of ideas I will be looking to implement into my own life and businesses.

Beaver Ponds in North America: A great Twitter thread on the importance of the beaver to North America’s hydrology and landscape. The similarities between what the beaver created by ponding water is much the same as what the Australian landscape emulates with plants and what Natural Sequence Farming looks to reinstate. Well worth a quick read!

That’s all for this edition. Thanks for stopping by.

Looking to learn more? Check out our blog

⛰️ Take the next steps to restore your landscape with our on-ground Learn Natural Sequence Farming course, or add your name to the waitlist for our upcoming online course.

👋 New to Reading Landscapes? Subscribe or read our previous editions

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