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Author Topic: Chain Harrowing?  (Read 8853 times)


  • Joined Oct 2011
  • North Notts
Chain Harrowing?
« on: March 05, 2014, 11:16:12 pm »
I've a field that has been very wet over the winter and is now just beginning to dry out. I want to sow some white clover this year, before I move my sheep back in. Various questions I'm not sure about - should I chain harrow the field? And if so, would I do it before I sow the clover seed or after? Should I chain harrow it - what are the benefits? When should I sow the clover seed? How long afterwards can the sheep go back in?
Sorry there are so many questions, but I just feel someone on the forum knows a lot more about this than I do!
Thank you
4 pet sheep


  • The Accidental Smallholder
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  • Joined Oct 2007
  • Carnoustie, Angus
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Re: Chain Harrowing?
« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2014, 07:41:52 am »
Not an expert so happy to be corrected, but this is my understanding.

A chain harrow will spread any dung on the field and level things like mole hills. It won't remove a lot of thatch or moss or do much to prepare the field for sowing.

A spring tine harrow will remove more thatch and moss, and open up the soil and grass roots to the light and air, and expose more open soil for sowing. We only use a spring tine harrow here.

Either way don't put a tractor on it until it's dry enough, else you could damage the soil structure. As a rule of thumb if the tractor tires leave visible impressions in the soil it's too wet.


Still playing with tractors

  • Joined Jul 2012
  • Cumbernauld
  • You can never have enough HP
Re: Chain Harrowing?
« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2014, 12:15:45 am »
Yes i agree with Dan, but the best unit for your purpose is a combination of a spring tine harrow with an over seeding unit.

Also make sure you have the correct chain type of harrow as some are too aggressive and are to be used for soil cultivation not grass.

Stellan Vert

  • Joined Apr 2013
Re: Chain Harrowing?
« Reply #3 on: March 10, 2014, 08:53:44 am »
Hi B A

Would you like to expand/clarify a little for us numpties

I thought a chain harrow was a chain harrow 



  • Joined Nov 2012
  • Nr Crediton in Devon
Re: Chain Harrowing?
« Reply #4 on: March 10, 2014, 10:38:02 am »
broadly speaking all harrows do the same job which is to prepare ground for seed, by breaking up large lumps of soil, and producing a finer tilth for new seed to germinate in. the only significant difference in types is the extent to which they will rough up the soil. at the most extreme end, something like a disc harrow will do a pretty vigorous job and is probably not a good idea on existing pasture as it will trash it. at the other end of the scale a tine harrow will scratch up bare patches quite well. a chain harrow probably falls somewhere in the middle and is particularly useful at flattening out unwanted bumps and molehills as well as scratching up patches. the different types of each different type are largely based on the size of it although there are different types of mounting such as trailing and mounted and therefore the amount of disturbance caused to soil surface. in order to germinate the small seeds of grass and clover need good soil contact and therefore simply spreading seed without roughing up first is likely to result in a high level of non germination, a general school of though is that rolling post harrow and pre sowing and again post sowing increases the probability of good soil to seed contact.this consolidation of the soil is vital and grazing sheep almost straight after sowing can actually help. don't leave sheep in too long however as they will then begin to overgraze new seedlings all the warnings about avoiding driving on wet soil I would totally agree with. very easy to set out to improve a pasture and to make it worse by using the wrong tools at the wrong time. one last thought is soil ph. clover really doesn't like a lower ph and will struggle to establish and grow on if ph is much below 6

Dreich Pete

  • Joined Jan 2014
  • Aberdeenshire
Re: Chain Harrowing?
« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2014, 10:44:12 am »
My understanding of a chain harrow's use was for thinning out grasses, but I suppose it makes sense for it to have several uses.

I'm contemplating making a chain harrow to shake up my meadow prior to some wild flower planting as an interim use of the field while we try to suss out whether it will normally be dry enough to grow anything in. We missed the last chance to get the topper over it last year as we'd only just moved in. The result is a lot of very long, flattened grass that is holding extra moisture and giving the moss a chance to get a strong foothold.

My plan was to tow the harrow behind my 4x4 but the last time I drive around the field I sank about 6" and left deep ruts. Nit attractive and not productive.


  • Joined Jan 2010
    • Allt Y Coed Farm and Campsite
Re: Chain Harrowing?
« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2014, 04:34:36 am »
I've got no answer to any of your questions sorry op. 

But, I only have a chain harrow and not a spring one (which I was interested to read about) - for the grass when itt gets a bit whiley - it seems to pull the grass thats gona only fall over and die out the and let the rest flourish during summertime.

I got lots of moss, I am thinkin on somethng now a litle more hard like the spring harrow earlly on cos putting tires on top of the chain harrow doesnt seem to cut the mustard.

Why do you want more clover - whats white clover?


  • Joined Sep 2011
  • Bala, North Wales
    • Facebook
Re: Chain Harrowing?
« Reply #7 on: March 21, 2014, 09:32:32 am »
And just to add in... If you already have some clover, liming, and not fertilising will help it.  We have decided to ditch fertilising , other than maybe the odd load of muck every few years....  We expect a less dense, but more biodiverse hay crop.  We are trying to juggle low density sheep keeping ( so need grazing and hay) with upping the wildflower content for pollinators. We chain harrow but it only really flattens the mole hils ( which are a good seed bed for spot overseed ing with local wildflower mix).  I've been told that over seeding generally won't work as the grass out competes almost everything especially if soil is fertile.  Enjoy.


  • Joined Oct 2013
  • English Lake District
Re: Chain Harrowing?
« Reply #8 on: March 21, 2014, 09:00:09 pm »
Some very interesting and useful advice, which I hope I can add to.

To the original OP, if the ground has dried sufficiently to allow harrowing without causing further damage and compaction, then go for it followed by roller.
Might just be a bit early for a seed application though, as the soil may not have have warmed sufficiently.

At this stage, I think I'd be going for testing the soil to see what the pH levels are, together with P & K, before making any decision regarding lime or fertiliser application.
Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.  ~Douglas Adams


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