We studied the effects of late season nutrient loading (NLOAD) on the timing of bud burst, growth and changes in nitrogen (N) concentrations in the first growing season after seedlings were outplanted. Two-year-old Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) seedlings with three foliar nitrogen concentration levels (NLOAD levels 11.3, 22.5 and 27.5 g N kg-1 for L, M- and H-seedlings, respectively) were examined in the following three experiments: root growth capacity test (RGC), rooting experiment in the field and soil fertility experiment (‘rich’ or ‘poor’ soil) in the field. Bud burst in RGC was monitored daily and foliar N concentration (field experiments), height and root growth (rooting experiment) at monthly intervals. With respect to the RGC test, no differences in root growth were observed among the three NLOAD levels, but buds of H-seedlings burst 2–6 days earlier than others. In the rooting experiment, nutrient loading increased height and root growth but did not affect the timing of height growth. In the soil fertility experiment, foliar N of H- and M-seedlings decreased rapidly, but the decline was slower in rich soil. Current-year needles had more N in seedlings growing in rich soil and the N concentration declined until height growth ceased whereafter it increased until autumn. Improved growth from nutrient loading seems to last only for the first season after planting and the greatest benefits are enjoyed by seedlings planted in poor soils.