Seed saving is a rewarding activity, but saving cucumber seeds is not for the novice. It takes a bit of knowledge to save seeds from cucumbers, but I would still recommend giving it a go.
There are so many delicious varieties of cucumbers out there, rather than the standard store bought cucumbers. Not all cucumber seeds can be saved, but when you learn how to save cucumber seeds, you’ll be able to grow your own cucumbers.
In this article, I will explain the step-by-step process on how to save seeds from cucumbers. I will also go into a bit of detail about why cucumber seed saving from open pollinated plants is preferable to hybrid plants.
- Related Article: How to Save Seeds
Overview of Saving Cucumber Seeds
Cucumber seed saving takes additional preparation and dedication, but I would say it’s worth the extra effort.
Cucumbers are pollinated by insects, and they do cross easily with other varieties. For this reason, I recommend sticking to one cucumber variety per garden per season if you plan to grow cucumbers and seed save.
If you’d like to try a few different varieties, you could try to talk to other gardener friends about growing cucumber plants too. Then you can collectively share your harvests!
Growing food and seed saving is a great communal activity, and there’s also something special about eating together to share the fruits of your labor.
When growing cucumbers, I recommend growing open pollinated, heritage, or heirloom seeds. They’ll be the best to ensure that you get the same types of cucumbers as the parent plants that the seeds were saved from.
- Related: Organic Seeds and Where to Buy Them
How To Save Seeds From Cucumbers
Step 1 – Choose and Harvest the Best Cucumbers for Their Seeds
Start by only choosing ripe cucumbers to harvest. Choose fruits from the plant that is the most vigorous and has the best tasting cucumbers.
Find your preferred shape, size, and taste by trying cucumbers from various vine locations.
Always leave some cucumbers on the vines when you start to harvest. That way you will have cucumbers left over to keep for seeds.
Once you’ve selected your seed fruits, leave them on the plant for the seeds to fully develop and become mature seeds.
Your seeds will be ready for the saving process when the previously ripe cucumber turns orange or yellow. That’s when you know they’ll be viable seeds.
Step 2: Soak the Cucumber Seeds
Once you remove the seeds from the cucumber, you will find that they are covered in a gelatinous membrane.
The gel coating is to protect the seeds if the cucumbers are reseeding naturally. But you will need to remove the coating and dry the seeds to store them successfully.
To remove the gel, you must soak the seeds for about 3-4 days in warm water. Simply put the seeds in a glass jar, bowl, or small bucket, and allow them to ferment.
Fermentation will remove the gel coating and kill viruses and seed-borne diseases that may be on the seeds.
Step 3 – Check to See if the Cucumber Seeds Are Ready
When soaked, the cucumber seeds will initially float. Once you have sunken seeds, they are ready to be dried. Stir daily until all the seeds all sink to the bottom, then they are ready to be dried.
You most likely won’t get 100% sunken seeds. If there are seeds still floating, then add a bit more water and wait for few more days to see if they’ll sink.
If the seeds don’t sink and are still floating, those are bad and non-viable seeds. There won’t be a need to save those.
Mold will also form on the water. The mold can get pretty smelly, but this just means it’s working.
Step 4 – Dry the Cucumber Seeds
Once the seeds have sunk to the bottom, you’ll need to dump out the water, while being careful not to dump out any seeds.
First, discard the mold, bad seeds, and pulp at the top of the water so discard this. You can put these onto your compost heap if you have one.
Once all the water has been removed, place your seeds onto a window screen or paper towel. Leave them in a dry, warm spot until the seeds are completely dry.
Step 5 – Store the Cucumber Seeds
When your seeds are dry, you can store them in a seed envelope sleeve, paper bag, or airtight container. You can also use plastic bags for storage.
Remember to label the bags with the cucumber variety and the current year. That will help with remembering things like what crop season the seeds are from.
Make sure your seeds are completely dry when storing. Should any condensation form inside the bag, then take the seeds out and leave them out to dry a little longer.
How Long Will My Cucumber Seeds Last?
If properly stored, cucumber seeds have a shelf life of up to 10 years. This means that if you save a lot of seeds your first year, you could viably use a few each year.
With that shelf life, it also means you don’t have to seed save every year, because you’ll have enough seeds for future years.
Seed storage locations need a consistent temperature, and cool and dry conditions. It’s best to store them inside away from any heat sources.
Can I Save and Grow Hybrid Cucumber Seeds?
The viability of saving hybrid seeds is subjective and a little complicated.
While some people have been able to successfully grow from hybrids, it is definitely more risky seed saving from hybrids. There is a possibility to grow from them, although some people have found that seeds from hybrids won’t germinate at all.
Even organic seeds and plants will probably can still be hybrid. Hybrids don’t need chemicals to be produced, so many organic seeds are hybrids.
You can still use hybrids for organic gardening, and you may even be able to successfully reseed from them. But you won’t know how the cucumbers will turn out until they grow.
F1 hybrids are a combination of two different genetic lines that have been selectively bred and then manually cross pollinated, usually to enhance desired traits.
This means the subsequent seeds won’t produce plants that are the same as the parent plant. If you continue to seed save, they may even be more inconsistent and continue to change through the generations.
They are actually designed like this so you have to keep purchasing seeds rather than saving your own.
Most commercially available seeds are F1 hybrids. The seed packet will usually have this information on the back. If you’re unsure, assume that they are hybrid.
The issue with growing from hybrids is that they are unreliable and inconsistent. If you don’t mind chancing it, then of course you can experiment with seeds from hybrids.
However, to get consistently good cucumbers from generation to generation, then stick to open pollinated and heirloom varieties.
Final Thoughts on Cucumber Seed Saving
Seeds saving is a great way to save a few bucks, as well as get cucumbers that will consistently do well in your climate.
By saving the seeds from the plants that thrive in your garden season after season, you will ensure that the strongest and most productive genes are passed on.
The longer you save and replant the seeds, the stronger your subsequent plants will be. You’ll get better at growing cucumbers and you’ll also have great tasting cucumbers.
For guides on how to save seeds for other plants, check out these articles: