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Is it normal for new trees to have 8"of solid clay in the root ball?

last month
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Hoping to get some guidance. We have planted new trees now 3 years in a row but unfortunately they have died each time due to root rot. We've been very careful about not over watering but here in PA we tend to get some heavy spring rainstorms every now and then. For the last two years we had paid the tree center to install the trees that we bought from them. Overall, we've spent over $2000 on trees and installation costs.

For this most recent set, we decided that we would try and install them ourselves to save some cost. When we dug out the previous trees, we found that the soil directly beneath them was very heavy/solid clay, and sopping wet despite the area not having been watered in months. We also found that the burlap and heavy wire mesh was still around the dead trees root ball.

This time around, we decided to install some drainage for the new trees, so we dug out a trench extending about 8' from the base of the tree and put in some drainage pipe. We didn't find any the heavy clay soil anywhere else that we dug out. Then when planting the new trees, we found that the bottom of the new tree's root ball had about 8 inches of solid red clay in the bottom. I cant imagine the clay would be able to properly drain or allow the roots to breathe if planted like this.

For the last few years we have been thinking that our soil was bad or that we were over watering. But now I'm stuck wondering if maybe the trees are being shipped with too much clay leading to root rot once they're planted?

These pictures were taken with the tree fresh from the tree center and had not yet been watered. The clay was so dense that I could literally form it with my hands.

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