7 Steps to Saving Cucumber Seed

Cucumbers are one of the most iconic veggies of summer! There’s nothing like a cool, crisp cucumber that you’ve grown yourself. If you love cucumbers as much as we do, you might want to consider saving some seed from your favorite variety. Cucumbers are an excellent plant to start with if you’re new to seed saving.

  1. Make sure you’ve isolated your varieties.

    If you planted multiple cucumbers and want pure seed, they need to be isolated. You can use time to isolate them by growing one variety early and another late. You can also use distance, keeping varieties separated by 1/8 mile for home use and a minimum of 1/4 to 1 mile for pure seed.

    However, if your varieties aren’t isolated perfectly, you can save seed anyway. You may end up with a cross you love.

  2. Make sure you have enough plants.

    You can save viable seed from a single cucumber plant. However, to maintain a variety over time, it’s best to grow at least five plants. If you’re saving seeds to preserve a rare variety, we recommend you grow and save seed from at least 25 plants.

  3. Select your best plants.

    You should try to save seed from plants that have performed the best through the season. Select those that are healthy, vigorous, and disease free with good-tasting fruit. You can find a list of other traits you may want to consider when saving seed here.

  4. Let your cucumbers ripen fully.

    Don’t pick seed cucumbers at the same time you pick them for eating. For seed saving, you want cucumbers to be fully ripe. They should be large, rounded, and yellow to orange.

    It’s best to leave them on the vine for a few weeks after the color change. They’ll begin to soften and should pull easily from the vine. If that isn’t possible, you can let them continue to ripen and soften in a basket out of direct sunlight. When you cut the cucumber open, the seeds should appear large and full.

  5. Harvest your seeds.

    To harvest the seeds, it’s easiest to cut the cucumbers lengthwise and scoop the seeds out with a spoon. Place all of the pulp and seeds into glass jars. Mason jars are ideal for this.

  6. Ferment and clean your seeds.

    In order to remove all the pulp from the seeds, you need to let them ferment a bit. Add a little water to your jars of seeds and pulp. The containers need airflow into them, so don’t put a lid on. However, you can cover them with a bit of cloth or coffee filter and a rubber band to keep out fruit flies.

    Let this mixture ferment for three days, stirring it once a day. It’s okay if you notice some mold growing on top. After three days, add a more water and stir the mixture again. The viable seeds will sink while the pulp and bad seeds will float, and you can pour them off the top. Drain your viable seeds.

  7. Dry your seeds.

    Lay your seeds on a single layer on paper towels, coffee filters, old window screens, or dehydrator screens (don’t dehydrate them, though). Let your seeds air dry naturally until they can be snapped in half.

  8. Store your seeds.

    Store seeds in an airtight container in a cool dark place. Cucumber seeds will remain viable for five years or more under the right conditions.

    Learn how to do a germination test here.

Are you saving seeds this year? Tag us on Facebook or use the hashtag #southernexposureseed on Instagram to show us your projects

Summer Squash: Ways to Use & Preserve It

Summer squash plants are incredibly productive. New and seasoned gardeners alike often grow much more than their families can use.

When you feel like you’re drowning in fresh produce, it’s easy to let some go or toss it in the compost bin, but there are other options. Here are a few ways we recommend to use up a large harvest of summer squash. 

Donate your excess. 

Home gardeners may get tired of summer squash, but fresh produce can be a luxury for others. If you have extra summer squash (or any other vegetable), we recommend donating some to your local food bank. Here are some resources you can use to find a food bank near you:

Ferment it.

Fermenting is an easy, safe way to preserve food. There’s no need to stand over a hot canner all day! Fermented foods are also full of helpful bacteria that are great for gut health. Check out this recipe for Lacto-Fermented Summer Squash from Cultures for Health.

Dry it.

If you’ve got a dehydrator, you can quickly dry large amounts of summer squash. It’s excellent sliced into thin strips and salted for a crunchy, potato chip-like snack. It and also be shredded or chopped and dried for use this winter in soups, stews, and baked goods. 

Prepare your squash as desired and lay it out on a dehydrator tray in a single layer. Then lightly salt your squash. Note: thicker pieces of squash will take much longer to dry.

Dry your squash at 130-140°F until your squash is completely dry and brittle. Store in an airtight container until you’re ready to use. 

Alternatively, squash can be sliced into rings, hung, and dried over an open fire or woodstove. 

To use in cooked dishes, add it to your recipe with a bit of liquid for the last few minutes of cooking. To use shredded squash in baked goods, cover it with warm water for about 5 minutes before adding to your mix.

Freeze it.

Like dehydrated squash, frozen squash is perfect for winter use in soups, stews, and baked goods. The first step is to shred or cube your fresh squash.


To ensure it doesn’t get mushy, you need to blanch your squash before freezing. Place your squash in boiling water for exactly 1 minute. Then remove your squash with a slotted spoon and place it in ice water for one minute to immediately stop the cooking. Drain your squash on a clean towel.

Flash Freeze

To keep your squash from freezing into one solid clump, you can use a technique called flash freezing; this works best with the squash cubes or chunks. Spread your drained squash onto a cookie sheet with parchment paper and freeze for at least one hour before transferring to a container.

Alternatively, you can measure squash out for your favorite recipes ahead of time; this works best with shredded squash for baked goods and sauces.

Frozen squash will last up to 10 months.

Can it.

Canning summer squash can be tricky because it is a low-acid food. Ball canning no longer has recipes for canning it on their website or in their book. However, some people still do by pressure canning or adding acidic ingredients.

Pressure Canned Squash

If you’ve got a pressure canner, you can put up plain summer squash as you would many other vegetables. You can find a recipe here.

Pickled Summer Squash

Pickling summer squash is relatively easy and a lot like pickling cucumbers. Just make sure you follow the recipe.

Pineapple Squash

One of my favorite ways to preserve summer squash and zucchini is to make “pineapple squash.” Basically, you can your squash in pineapple juice, and the mild-flavored squash takes on the pineapple flavor. I love it for pizza and sweet and sour stir-fries. 

You can find a recipe here.


There are so many ways to use fresh summer squash, and thanks to the internet, we now get to see so many creative recipes. Here are a few we thought you all might enjoy.

July: Garden Checklist

We’ve made it to the dog days of summer! There are many essential tasks to keep your garden growing this time of year. Here’s a checklist of some of the key maintenance your garden needs during July.

Weed, mulch, and water perennials. 

It’s easy to forget about perennials when many annuals are at their height of production but don’t do it! Those perennials like rhubarb, blueberries, strawberries, and chives that you worked so hard to establish, need a bit of attention as we move into the hottest, driest part of the year. July is a good time to weed them well, water them, and mulch them in. 

Sow Last Chance Summer Crops

If you’re hoping for more summer crops, there’s still a bit of time to get a few in the garden in the Southeast. You can still sow cucumbers, summer squash, zucchini, corn, and beans. Check out our previous post for more information on summer crops you can plant this July for a late summer or fall harvest.

Harvest and Store Potatoes, Garlic, and Root Vegetables

Potatoes should be harvested and cured when the plants die back. Harvest your garlic on a dry day when the bottom two sets of leaves have turned brown and cure them before storage. The last of your spring root vegetables like beets and carrots should be harvested and used or stored indoors. They can get woody in tough in the heat of summer.

Begin Sowing Fall Crops

Especially if you live in a northern or mountainous area, July is time to sow or transplant fall crops like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, beets, and more. You can set seed trays in your refrigerator for a couple of days to help plants that you’re starting indoors germinate in the heat. Direct sown seeds can be watered well and then covered with boards, cardboard, or burlap until they’ve just started to come up.

Ira’s book “Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast” is a great resource for learning about fall planting. You can also check out a guest post by Pam Dawling called, Last Chance Sowings.

If you’ve started them, it’s also time to plant out tomatoes for fall canning, storage, or in our case, the tomato taste tests. 

Pick Up Food Preservation Supplies

If you know that you’re going to have (or are having) large harvests, it’s good to begin thinking about food preservation. If you’re canning, you may want to ensure you’ve got items like lids, vinegar, and spices. You can also start collecting recipes to help you avoid being overwhelmed by your harvest.

Here are a few of our favorite posts on using and preserving produce:

Sow Heat Tolerant Greens

July and August can be a difficult time of year for fresh salads, but some greens are up to the challenge. Sow small batches of Swiss chard, collards, and Malabar spinach to use as baby greens. 

You can also sow small amounts of heat-resistant lettuce each week. To ensure success with your lettuce, refrigerate the seeds two days before planting and plant them in partial shade. You can use shade cloth, row cover, or plant them on the northern side of a taller crop like tomatoes, to provide some protection from the sun. You can also lightly water or mist your plants in the afternoon to keep them cool. Note, that’s not a substitute for regular watering.

Research and Order Fall Cover Crops

As a gardener, it’s important always to look ahead. Sowing cover crops this fall will protect your soil from erosion through the winter, encourage beneficial insects, and add organic matter. All of this adds up to a healthier and more productive garden next season.

You can find more resources on fall cover crops here. We generally recommend red clover, oats, Austrian winter peas, and rye as winter cover crops.

Think About Water Wise Gardening

Even if your area isn’t experiencing any droughts, it’s still good to consider how you’re watering. Drip irrigation is the most efficient way to water. It’s also best to water in the early morning or the evening when less water will be lost to evaporation. 

Another way to keep the soil moist is by mulching around plants and sowing summer cover crops in any empty beds. 

Select and Order Garlic, Shallot, and Perennial Onions

While you won’t plant these items until fall, you’ll have the best selection if you order early. It will also give you plenty of time to plan a spot in your garden for them and do any research you need to if you’re new to these.

Hill Peanuts

To get the best harvest, you want to hill your peanuts before they peg or drop runners. They should be about 12 inches when you do this. After hilling, mulch them in.

Saving the Past for the Future