Catoctin Mountain Growers, situated at the base of the Appalachian foothills in Keymar, Maryland, was founded by Bob and Denise Van Wingerden in 1985. Considering Fine Americas got its start in Walnut Creek, California, in 1983, current Catoctin Mountain head grower Julie Ifert believes that it’s fair to assume Catoctin has leaned on the company for its plant growth regulator (PGR) needs from the very start.
The 25-total acre operation serves customers from Virginia to New York, with its plants ending up at many of the national big-box retail stores scattered throughout the region. The group also sells a portion of its output directly to consumers.
“We use basically all of their products. We just love Fine Americas,” Ifert says. “They have a fantastic price point and the product is high quality. That’s why we buy all of our PGRs from them.”
Ifert and her production team use Fine Americas’ line of commercial specialty PGR formulations to ensure plants achieve optimal growth throughout their lifecycle, making sure final plant customers receive a healthy, attractive plant.
Prior to being able to deploy the helpful chemistries, Ifert says a team of laborers would “mechanically pinch” and space perennials throughout the growth cycle.
“Mechanical pinching is a huge labor expense. Now we do minimal mechanical pinch, so we want to use plant growth regulators to reduce our spend on labor,” she says. “And it’s the same with spacing. If a plant overgrows its space, you need to send a crew of people through there.”
Specifically, Ifert points to Collate (concentrated ethephon) combined with Dazide as the Fine Americas offerings that have enabled as much hands-off growing as possible.
“That [combination] has really changed how we grow things in the past 10 years,” she says. “We went from pinching almost every vegetative annual, to now we don’t really have to pinch any.”
Piccolo 10XC is another go-to tool in the Catoctin Mountain Growers’ toolbox, according to Ifert.
“There’s a lot of suppliers out there [for that active] but I feel like Fine went with the extra effort on the research and development side,” she says.
The grower also uses Fresco to give plants a late boost in size before shipping time, she adds. The easy handling and storage are additional attributes that help Fine Americas’ product line stand out from the competition.
“[Just] less plastic and less jugs to go through and rinse out, and it’s a better formulation that doesn’t require agitation when you run it [through an injector],” Ifert says.