Ask the gardening expert

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I still have some houseplants outdoors. I put them out in mid-June, and they look so beautiful, and happy, I hate to have to bring them in. I know it's late but the weather has been so nice. How late can I safely leave them out? Will they be OK coming in after so long?

In a more normal summer you would be late. This summer's late, sunny dry spell is anything but normal. I think you are taking a chance as the nights are longer, and cooler. Anytime now we could be seeing frost on the pumpkin, as they say. We've already heard reports of frost in parts of the county. The plants will need some time to acclimate to the indoor dry air. Try a sheltered porch area for a week or two and then a cool room before they come into the house.

There have been times that my plants have grown so much during their summer vacation in my shady garden that they need repotting. This is a good opportunity to give a close examination for insects and disease.

On my deck there are some lovely containers that we received as gifts. I am wondering if they can be left out all winter. I'm more worried about the containers than the plants, although I'd like to see them survive the winter as well. Do you have a hint as to how to keep them safe?

If the containers are made of wood, metal, fiber glass or plastic of some sort, they should be OK. If they are ceramic, clay, or something breakable such as glass, I think you would be better off moving them into a garage or other enclosure during the coldest part of winter.

If we have a big winter storm, precautions are warranted. Most winters we wouldn't need to do much. But if you have valuable planters and plants, err on the side of safety. Luckily, nowadays we get some warning of big storms, so we have time to take precautions to protect valuable items.

Celeste Lindsay is a WSU-certified master gardener. Send questions to mslindsay8@gmail.com.