Abstract The term ‘Europe’ covers a wide range of forest types and scientific philosophies, effectively preventing generalised statements. Water is regularly deficient only in Mediterranean regions and, apart from careful weeding, little active management is undertaken. In more-northern and western regions, much effort has been directed towards removal of excess soil water or providing locally drained planting sites. By contrast, nutrition is relatively amenable to the dictates of management, and relevant research dates back over a century. The greatest demands for soil nutrients occur while the green crown is being formed; thereafter efficient cycling within the tree means a much-reduced uptake. In consequence, responses to fertilizer are most likely at the establishment phase; in Europe, deficiencies have been identified for N, P, K, Mg, B and Cu. Most forest departments have now drawn up guidelines for fertilizer applications based on empirical experimentation, sometimes making use of foliar analysis. A particular feature of northern and western coniferous forests is a late-rotation N deficiency resulting from immobilization of this element in the humus layer. This was the first nutritional problem to attract the attention of forest scientists and it has now been very thoroughly explored. It seems unlikely that the future will see any heightened interest in the management of water. In relation to nutrition management, the search must be to develop diagnostic and ameliorative measures that ensure minimum adverse effects on the environment.