WVU Extension Agent Greg Hamons talks Soil PH, Invasive Species, Bee Keeping and 4-H

In part 1 of our interview with WVU Pocahontas County Extension Agent Greg Hamons, we talked about several invasive species affecting our pastures, gardens and trees, including the Poison Hemlock, wire worms and the Emerald Ash Borer. At the end of that story Hammond touched upon the need for soil testing. In this part of the interview, we pick up right there.

Greg, what’s the most common soil problem that we find in this area?

“The most common problem we see is low PH -lack of lime” said Hamons. ‘Folks will typically put on nutrients every year in the form of some type of fertilizer or compost, or something like that. I’ve checked ground before where the nutrient levels are perfectly fine, but the PH is high fours or low fives, which our readings should be between six or seven for most of our crops, And lime is a cheap fix, typically, but the first thing I look at when I get a soil test analysis result back is the PH level and it is typically low. Some people are surprised that you don’t need fertilizer for two years, but you need this lime right now. Unfortunately, it takes a little while to correct that PH, so it takes a little while to raise that up – those nutrients become available to those plants and they will take off better.”

“I always get a lot of questions about invasive species and how to control them. Autumn Olive, Tatarian Honeysuckle, Amur Honey Suckle, Multiflora Rose is another one, especially from some of our folks grazing livestock trying to control those. Japanese Barberry has become another one in the last five or six years, it’s getting really widespread. It amazes me really that the number of Barberry you see as ornamental plants that you see still in landscapes. They have actually declared that as an invasive species that they are not going to let some of these home improvement stores sell anymore. They were selling those for years and it’s taken over some pastures. The same’s for Tatarian Honeysuckle, Autumn Olive, Multiflora Rose.”

Greg, what is one of the more interesting projects you have undertaken?

“Probably one of the more interesting things I have done in the last couple of years has been our Bee Keepers Association. They formed the last couple of years. We’ve probably had as many as forty people come to the meetings, but we got about twenty members that are there just about every month at our Bee Keepers meetings. I am by no means a bee expert, but I’ve tried to help the group form. They do just informational and educational meetings, get together and talk about their bees.”

Greg, I hear that bee keepers are having problems with mites killing their bees.

“The Varroa mite is a big issue for them. There ‘s been a bunch of treatment methods tried for those. Most of these folks who are experienced as some of ours are, have got a pretty good handle on how to treat those. When to treat for them is pretty key too. There are some evolving techniques people are trying to control them better, to get those bees through the winter. Unfortunately for a lot of these bee keepers, it can be really frustrating, because they are losing -some of them- forty, fifty, sixty percent of their bees every winter. And they are a very expensive investment by the time you buy hives, packages of bees, introduce them and that kind of thing and then lose them in the winter. Recommendations I’ve heard are most of those hives need quite a bit of honey =sometimes up to eighty pounds of honey- to make it through the winter. So if they don’t have sufficient honey stores to feed on as they go into the winter, a lot of them can basically starve to death.”

What’s your typical day like?

“I spend quite a few days out of the office, just visiting farms and homeowners that just have questions about plants, insects and diseases. And it takes a site visit to go out and see what’s going on. We have specialists in just about any field you can think of from Agronomy, pesticides, horticulture available to us at the university, so if it’s not something I can figure out what it is, I’ve got contacts I can contact, find out the problem and get an answer.”

Do you work with 4-H?

“Yup, Lucy Mosesso is our 4-H agent, she’s here next door. We actually just had camp a couple of weeks ago. I teach shooting sports at camp. We actually have an archery course, a shotgun course, muzzleloaders and air rifle. I teach a couple of those, and there are a couple of certified instructors who teach the other two. Our shooting courses in 4-H as a whole is growing pretty rapidly statewide. We actually have state tournaments for shotgun, archery, air rifle, air pistol and muzzleloader, and they send kids to Nationals from the state every year.”

Stay tuned for part three of this interview, where Greg talks to us about the fast-growing agricultural industry of growing very low THC content hemp in our area to be used to make various products.

Below are photographs of some invasive species mentioned in this interview.

Poison Hemlock


Autum Olive (These berrys are actually quite edible.)


Tatarian Honey Suckle (with white flower)


Tatarian Honey Suckle (with pink flower)


Japanese Barbary


Amur Honey Suckle 



Story By

Tim Walker

Tim is the WVMR News Reporter. Tim is a native of Maryland who started coming to Pocahontas County in the 1970’s as a caver. He bought land on Droop Mountain off Jacox Road in 1976 and built a small house there in the early 80’s. While still working in Maryland, Tim spent much time at his place which is located on the Friars Hole Cave Preserve. Retiring in 2011 as a Lieutenant with the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland, Tim finally took the plunge and moved from Maryland to his real home on Droop Mountain. He began working as the Pocahontas County Reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio in January of 2015.

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