White spruce is a commercially important tree species in Canada’s boreal forest, and studies are underway to determine the best conditions for planting nursery grown seedlings in the field. Here, we studied effects of low thinning (1/3 harvested), shelterwood (2/3 harvested), and clear-cut harvesting on soil chemical properties, on the growth and nutrition of white spruce seedlings, and on diffuse non-intercepted (DIFN) light levels at 75 cm above the soil surface. The study was conducted on a nutrient-rich clayey soil in the Abitibi region of Québec. DIFN light was lowest in non-harvested control plots and increased curvilinearly with basal area removal. Thus, DIFN light in clear-cut plots was more than twice the amount in shelterwood plots. At three years post-planting, significant linear relationships were found between DIFN light and seedling growth parameters, which were significantly higher in clear-cut than in other treatment plots. Harvesting treatments had no significant effects on soil chemical properties or on four indices of mineral N availability. Needle mass increased with harvesting intensity. Mg and K concentrations in current-year needles were lower in clear-cut than in other treatment plots. In previous-year needles, Ca concentration was higher and Mg concentrations lower in clear-cut plots, whereas as K concentration was higher in non-harvested control plots. Nutrient concentrations were nearly all sufficient in all harvesting treatments according to diagnostic norms established for white spruce. Relative nutrient content (mg nutrient needle–1) of current-year late-summer needles increased, whereas relative nutrient concentration (mg nutrient mg–1 needle) varied slightly, with increasing harvesting intensity, indicating that all nutrients were sufficient in all treatments. There were significant linear relationships between seedling growth and needle Ca, Mg and K concentrations. We conclude that light availability, rather than nutrient limitations, is the main determinant of white spruce seedling growth on these fertile soils.