Just because the evenings are drawing in and the temperature is dropping doesn't mean that you can abandon your garden that has worked so hard for you during the year. There are many things to keep you occupied if you want to be outside and, let's be honest, being outdoors in whatever sun autumn has to offer can only be a healthy thing. Vitamin D is in short supply through the winter months, so grab it while you can.
Leaves are a wonderful compost composite, turning rapidly into a fine, airy loam that can be mixed in with general purpose compost to promote good drainage and lightness in your soil. Don't discard them, round them up using a lawn mower if you can, because then they will be partly shredded from the start. Store them in sacks or mix into your own compost heap. I used to have a spare wheelie bin that I put mine into, jumping on them initially, to get them all in, but to be honest a separate, covered pile will do the job, just turn them over every now and again. These days I mix all my leaves with my chicken poo which produces a rich, light but awfully pungent pile of unctuous goodness which is wonderful for vegetables but not necessarily for neighbourly relationships.
Sweet peas can be planted now in deep pots (I'm using toilet roll holders) in a greenhouse or cold frame to ensure early spring flowers. Assuming we get an early spring next year.
Clearing up this year's vegetable beds and mulching them or covering them for next year will keep the weeds down and will also help keep some warmth in the ground. Use an old piece of carpet or some plastic compost sacks, black side up so they're not too dazzling to the eye.
Bean poles, bamboo canes and hazel rods can all be stored upright and kept in a dry place if possible. They'll last a couple of years if looked after.
Lawns can be raked now to remove moss and other detritus. I also like to keep fallen leaves off as much as possible to prevent those ugly, bald patches that are a sure sign of wet, cloggy leaves lying in one spot too long. Buy a leaf blower, electric ones aren't too expensive and they'll keep a lawn leaf free. I also use a strimmer to cut the grass if it's too wet to use a mower. You can always run the mower over it when it's drier to tidy it up if necessary. A nice lawn makes a garden look so much better. Don't forget to keep the leaves!
Shrubs can be shaped before the really cold weather comes. Cut ends and frost don't go together very well and many hedges and shrubs are better cut when the leaves have all gone and before the sap rises in the early spring.
There are many vegetables than can be sown now and planted out. Early broccoli, cabbages, winter salads in a greenhouse or polytunnel, broad beans - and you can also pot up some herbs to be kept indoors. Just remember that cold windowsills and most herbs don't mix. Try and keep them in a warm but sunny spot. Over a radiator - but not too hot - or a warm bathroom shelf.
Don't forget too that on the milder sunny days throughout winter much preparation for spring can be achieved, but generally, just keeping things tidy and clear will give you a good, fresh start next year.
It's all about keeping your enthusiasm going through the darker, colder months, when the days are short and nights are long. You quickly forget the summer and can easily slip into a kind of semi hibernation when you think it's too cold to be outside. But some warm clothes and a bit of activity will soon get you warm, the hardest part is getting started.
Try and get out if you can. It can only do good.