Asked April 11, 2014, 8:38 AM EDT

I was wondering about mulch on asparagus. I got my composted manure on rather late- it was in February. I used composted sheep manure. It is rather thick in some places, I was wondering if I need to rake some of it off. Should I try and work it into the soil. Should I put straw down?

Huntingdon County Pennsylvania

1 Response

First, animal manure should not be applied around food crops within 270 days of harvest or it can possibly increase the risk of food borne illness (Salmonella or E. coli) in people. Composting the manure reduces the risk if the compost was managed appropriately which means that the temperatures reached a high enough level to deter food borne pathogens in the composted product. If the temperatures were not documented then you should use the manure based standard of 270 days (270 days between manure application and harvest) around produce grown for human consumption.Asparagus is typically cooked before eating so food borne pathogens should be killed through the cooking process. Fresh, washed asparagus if eaten raw may present a significant health risk to the individual feasting on the raw spears. So make sure that your asparagus emanating from your garden is cooked thoroughly. Also be careful when cutting the asparagus on a counter and/or cutting board because you may inadvertently contaminate the cutting board with bacteria from the manure.If the composted sheep manure is spread too thickly (more than 1/4 inch) please rake and remove it. Cultivation may injure the asparagus roots and impact crop yield so I would not work it into the soil right now. Straw is a much better alternative mulching material in the garden since it does not increase the risk of food borne illness like manure and/or un-managed manure based compost.Please contact me if you have any further questions.....T. Ford