Problem with Arborvitae Trees dying

A few years ago, I pulled out some Red Cedars on the West side of my house, because they were causing problems with Cedar Apple Rust. In their place, I planted two young Emerald Green Arborvitae. After one year, one of them needed to be replaced. The following year, the other original tree need replacement. Now, this year the older of the two again looks like it is going. These trees were bought at a reputable nursery in my Chicago area, and I had to pay 50% of cost for each replacement. There were no signs of insect damage. The trees were planted properly and are cared for regularly with proper watering and fertilizing. What I did observe when buying them that therewas that there was some die-back inside the tree, near the trunk. The nursery said this was normal for these trees. Also, these trees are rated for partial to full sun, so a half day's sun they receive should be enough. I'm wondering if the nursery is just selling bad stock, although this problem has been going on for several years, and they have had time to switch suppliers. Right now, the trees are growing for a year, or so, and then dying. The nursery is coming out in a few days to inspect the trees, but they will probably find some excuse to claim it was my fault the trees died. I have heard horror stories of nurseries knowingly selling defective stock and not caring for the consequences. I don't suspect a soil problem, since the Red Cedars had grown there for many years, and I have yews and apple trees nearby who are doing ok.
Sherwin D.
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If the arborvitaes were sold balled and burlapped, there is a chance that you didn't care for them properly - not by your own fault but because the nursery owners didn't explain what sort of care they need. Balled and burlapped plants are often grown in an especially dense clay. (That helps to keep the soil tight around the roots when they are dug). The problem is that with that sort of clay, if the root ball ever dries out in the first year or however long it takes for the roots inside to get out and into your own soil, it is nearly impossible to rewet it - because the clay becomes impermeable, almost like a brick, and will repel water. So, if you were watering with a regular sprinkler system or some such device, and it was wetting the top inch or so of the root ball, but the clay in the part underneath that dried out, the entire plant would eventually die. Once roots grow outside of that clay ball, they will usually find a way to get water from your soil, but until that time, they are dependent on whatever moisture is in that clay.

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Thanks for the reply greg, I think I gave the trees adequate watering, soaking them well on each occasion. I didn't want to flood the trees either. Actually, my soil is black to about 1 foot down, and quickly transitions over to almost pure clay. I have planted trees before wrapped in burlap (of course removing the burlap before planting), and never had a problem like this. I take it you are suggesting deep watering following planting to soak through the clay, followed by repeated such watering, for at least the first year. We have had an unusually cool summer with more than normal rainfall, but it is possible the clay formed a barrier around the root ball and prevented moisture from getting to the roots. I'm having someone from the nursery come out tomorrow to inspect the trees, so we will hear what he has to say.
Sherwin D.
gregpresley wrote:

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