This is the time of year where you have great opportunity to build your soil. Not just because of the abundance of organic material that people are trying to get rid of, but also because of one of the many functions of having four seasons.
We will start with how readily available organic material is this time of year. If you live in the city for the next month and a half, everyone you know is going to be dumping off more leaves than you can possibly use. All you have to do is go get them (after asking of course), run over them with a lawnmower to break them up and spread them over your garden beds.
If you don’t mind taking a drive, this is also the time of year that farmers start really cleaning out stables and such because they know their will be heavy build up over winter. Manure is plentiful and cheap (most will let you shovel all you want as long as you shovel). Straw and hay are also plentiful and cheap this time of year. Layer the two together over your beds over winter and they will be ready for planting in the spring.
Which brings me to the other side of this. The cycle of winter. As the plants die off in the fall and the leaves and other organic material gather on the ground, they tend to get and stay wet over the winter. Another thing that a little observation shows us, is that it does not typically stay consistently cold (temperature wise not whiny human wise). The constant moisture coupled with temperature fluctuation (which can easily be 40 degrees from sunny winter day to icy winter overnights) work to break all of this organic material down, so that its nutrients can be returned to the soil.
So take full advantage of all the “excess” organic material and the mechanics of nature, and make yourself great garden for next spring.