The Pagliarini brothers, Paul, Steven and Jim, led three bus tours of their 80-acre Central Nurseries Wholesale Nursery as part of the Rhode Island Nursery & Landscape Association (RINLA) 92nd Annual Summer Meeting. The Pagliarini brothers manage another 15-acre site in Johnston, RI which includes their four-acre retail Garden Center and headquarters for their award-winning Landscape Services division. Central Nurseries specializes in growing shade trees and evergreens with over 350 varieties available. Most trees sold are 2” to 6” in diameter but larger trees are available up to 10” in diameter. Trees are delivered to commercial and retail customers all over New England, New York and New Jersey.
Hardy and Reliable Trees:
Because Chepachet is in the coldest part of RI, and Central Nurseries is in zone 5B, their nursery stock is extremely hardy. Owner, Jim Pagliarini told us, “If these trees can survive weeks of -10o F winter lows, 100+oF summer highs and frosts in May and October, they will do well anywhere in New England.”
Central Nurseries are industry leaders with transplant survival rates of better than 98% because of careful handling from day one. New trees are planted, staked, fertilized and pruned by hand. Watering and cultivation are carefully managed during the first year and then the trees are allowed to adjust to natural conditions rather than being dependant on chemical fertilizers and irresponsible watering practices.
Central Nurseries offer ”high quality, great service and a fair price.” Jim Pagliarini’s motto is, “I make sure our product is good enough for my yard before I sell it a customer.”
As much as $15,000 in mouse or deer browsed material is removed from nursery fields annually and chipped, blended with the landscape division’s yard waste as well as manure and bedding from a local horse farm to make 1,200 to 1,500 yards of compost each year. This “black gold” is used to feed nursery soils before new plants are planted. Hydro gel is also used under nursery beds to increase the water-holding capacity of soils under new trees.
Using Integrated Pest Management and less toxic approaches has allowed Central Nurseries to reduce chemical use in recent years by as much as 85% with only spot treatment being done as needed. For example, tent caterpillars are now hand-picked into paper bags, burned and the remains buried as a soil amendment. This reduces risk to staff, saves the company money and protects the environment.
Drip irrigation allows efficient water use of nearly 10,000 feet of irrigation pipe distributing up to 500 gallons per minute drawn from the nearby Chepachet River. Some overhead watering is also used with tall overhead sprinklers attached to portable metal pallets each allowing coverage of up to one acre per hour.
Cultivation is done on new fields for the first year to prevent weed competition. Thereafter, grass is planted between the rows and kept mowed. This reduces runoff and aids soil moisture and ground water recharge. Another benefit to grass-covered fields is that staff can bring in equipment after a heavy rain without risking excessive soil compaction or getting equipment stuck. Each fall the grass is cut especially short to discourage mice from lingering in the fields and browsing tree bark during the winter months.
The Jimmy School
“There is Old School, Old – Old School and the Jimmy School of tree digging,” Jim Pagliarini explained. When customer requirements or other circumstances require summer digging, the crew makes a shallow trench around the tree, six to ten inches larger in diameter than the planned root ball size. Each day the trench is dug two inches deeper. 60 to 100 gallons of water are used daily to super-hydrate the tree before it is finally lifted, wrapped in burlap and a wire cage. One to two weeks of hardening off in a shaded nursery site before transport help ensure success at the final destination. This technique allows a healthy, fully leafed-out tree to be successfully moved. This labor intensive treatment comes at a cost; customers pay a 20% premium over traditional, fall dug trees.
Retail and Commercial Accounts:
Because commercial and the public may tour the Nursery site, all trees are tagged with retail prices. Retail customers generally visit the nursery on weekends while commercial buyers and landscapers typically shop during the work week. About 50% of the trees grown at Central Nurseries are sold through its Garden Center division in Johnston and 50% are sold through commercial accounts. While Central Nurseries has a large landscape division, they would rather sell a tree to a commercial account and allow them install the tree.
Central Nurseries has been managed by four generations of the Pagliarini family and is celebrating 75 years of customer service.
To learn more about Central Nurseries, visit their Wholesale Distribution Center at 55 Victory Highway, Chepachet, RI, call 401-568-1880 or see www.CentralNurseries.com. Summer hours are Monday – Friday: 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Saturday: 7 a.m. to noon. You can also visit the Central Nurseries Garden Center located at 1155 Atwood Avenue, Johnston, RI or call them at (401) 942-7511. Summer hours are Monday – Friday: 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday: 7 a.m. to noon. Both locations are closed on Sundays.
To see RI Farm Watch with Al Bettencourt’s visit to Central Nurseries and a recent interview with Jim Pagliarini, click here
A similar story ran in the RI Nurseryman & Landscape Association Fall, 2011Newsletter.