Cool and sunny days in October are perfect for settling the garden down for winter - at the same time it's often possible to prepare
In the vegetable garden, October is perfect for planting garlic and shallots. Both are supremely hardy and withstand the worst our winters can throw at them.
Winter mulching is useful for parsnips and leeks, as it makes digging easier during winter freezes. But mulching isn't the greatest idea with shallots, because slugs lay eggs under nice, warm winter mulch, then hatch in spring to find a banquet of tasty shallot sprouts all around them. Slugs avoid garlic, but love shallots.
This is the last call to harvest any remaining tomatoes. Green tomatoes ripen nicely on windowsills, where they get dealt with quickly because they're in plain view. It's also possible to cut tomato plants at ground level and hang them up in a carport, shed, or basement where they can be picked as they redden.
If you have ended up with a few inedible green potatoes, you can save them to plant next spring. An alternative is to pop them back in the garden in fall, where many survive the winter and produce an extra harvest. It's best to scatter plantings, because voles and other pests love eating their way undeneath a straight line of edibles.
Fall cleanup brings masses of leaves, over-age annuals, and vegetable leavings. Most are perfect for composting. It's best to create alternate layers of green and dried material. Being careful what you put in compost saves much grief later. Invasive plants such as couch grass, white morning glory, horsetail, and mint should be sent to commercial composting, where higher heats neutralize their troublesome aspects but retain their food value.
The same is true of seeded weeds.
Once leaves have fallen and stems are bare, it's easy to prune black currents and gooseberries, and to cut out fruited and weak canes of June-bearing raspberries. Cut fall-fruiting raspberries to the ground.
Once deciduous shrubs drop their leaves, check whether suckers are erupting from the rootstock. Suckering can happen with most grafted trees and shrubs, but witch-hazel and contorted hazel need watching more than most because it's so tempting to remove a few branches for winter decoration indoors - which stimulates the rootstock to produce disappointing suckers. All contorted hazel suckers are straight. Witch-hazel suckers produce small yellow fall flowers almost hidden by yellow leaves. Suckers should be pulled off (you may need pliers to get a good grip) so dormant buds are removed.
In the flower garden, October is the time to lift and store begonias, dahlias, fuchsias, and geraniums. It's not too late to grow on fuchsia and geranium cuttings.
Once fall rains begin, it's the best time to take hardwood cuttings. These can include black currants, red currants, forsythia, buddleia, roses, and some viburnums.
Just select a branch a foot or so long, remove any leaves that will be covered and thrust the branch into the soil. Rooting hormone is optional. Nature usually does the watering for you.