Build a Thicket
Overwintering birds need shelter and protection from the wind. A wild overgrown thicket of brambles is the ideal, especially when it traps wind-blown fallen leaves and twigs. You can help urban and suburban birds by creating a brush pile in an out-of-the-way corner of your yard. Use twiggy branches stacked over larger limbs, then later this winter add the Christmas tree and other evergreen trimmings to the pile.
Blooming pansies and violas grow great in the cooler fall weather and usually survive the winter to bloom some more next spring. Prepare a rich, humusy planting soil in a sheltered but sunny location for best results. Plant them now so they have ample time to become established before the ground freezes. Mulch the root zone generously after frost.
Make Leaf Mold Compost
Corral autumn leaves in a bin or fenced area where they can sit and rot, or add them to your compost pile. Chopped leaves take less room and break down faster. Mix in a nitrogen source such as fresh (herbicide-free) lawn clippings or barn manure and keep them damp to speed the process. Partially rotted leaves are a great addition to garden soil or can be used as mulch next year.
Plant Spring Bulbs
Fall is the time to plant spring-flowering bulbs such as tulips, daffodils and crocus. Plant them pointy end up into deeply prepared soil. Remember to loosen the soil below the bulbs because that is where the roots will be growing. After planting, water deeply to settle the soil and jump-start the roots into growth.
As work in the garden winds down, take a little time to collect soil samples and send them off for that often neglected chore: soil testing. Find out if your soil is acid or alkaline; whether or not it is rich in nutrients; and if you need to supplement, how much. Testing is much more accurate than guessing!