The most efficient decomposing bacteria thrive in temperatures between 110F and 160F. Thus, the hotter the pile, the faster the composting. If you achieve a good balance of carbon and nitrogen, provide lots of surface area within a large volume of material, and maintain adequate moisture and aeration, the temperature will rise over several days.
Crowded bulbs, or those producing fewer or smaller blooms than normal probably need to be divided. Do not dig the bulbs until after the foliage has yellowed. Diseased or wormy bulbs should be thrown out. Very small bulbs may not bloom for one or two years so. After digging, bulbs that can't be planted immediately are stored in a cool, dry, dark area at temperatures between 50 and 70 degrees. A few bulbs can be put in paper bags and hung from the ceiling. Large numbers of bulbs can be put, no more than 3 deep, on trays with screen bottoms. Inspect bulbs for rot during the storage period. The bulbs are replanted in October. Before digging and dividing, check the cultural information given for specific plants.
If the microorganisms have more surface area to feed on, the materials will break down faster. Chopping your garden debris with a machete, or using a chipper, shredder, or lawnmower to shred materials will help them decompose faster.
Once the flower fades, the flower and stem can be removed. The leaves must remain on the plant until they turn yellow and die. The leaves provide food to build up the bulb and form next year's flower bud. Foliage cut for flower arrangements is taken from several plants, not all from one.
The microorganisms in the compost pile function best when the materials are as damp as a wrung-out sponge and have many air passages. Extremes of sun or rain can adversely affect the balance of air and moisture in your pile. The air in the pile is usually used up faster than the moisture, so the materials must be turned or mixed up occasionallly to add air that will sustain high temperatures and control odor. Materials can be turned with a pitchfork, rake, or other garden tool.
Removal of old flowers prolongs the blooming period, reduces self seeding which leads to volunteer plants, and promotes flowering on side shoots. Cut off spent flower spikes just below the lowest floret. To be effective, removal must be done soon after the flowers fade.
Compost piles trap heat generated by the activity of millions of microorganisms. A 3-foot by 3-foot by 3-foot compost pile is considered a minimum size for hot, fast composting. Piles wider or taller than 5 feet don't allow enough air to reach the microorganisms at the center.
Want to check for surface feeding insects? Cut out both ends of a coffee can, screw it into the suspected area of infestation, fill it with water and a tablespoon of dish washing soap. As the water soaks into the soil the insects will float to the top.
Nitrogen encourages leafy growth, often at the expense of flowers and fruit. Don't use high-nitrogen fertilizers on tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants prior to flowering.
Wait until the ground has begun to freeze before mulching bulb beds. Mulching earlier will encourage bulb-munching rodents like mice and voles to nest there. A 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch will help prevent freeze-thaw cycles that can heave bulbs out of the ground; however, mulching is not absolutely necessary except in coldest areas.