Apple trees require regular pruning to help maximize fruit yield. By removing branches and parts that consume resources but that don't produce fruit, you can increase the fruit yield of a tree significantly through pruning. Pruning a McIntosh apple is very similar to pruning other fruit trees.
Head your young tree at planting about 30 inches above the ground. To head the tree, prune off the main leader with a pair of sharp pruning shears. Make the cut at about a 45-degree angle to discourage water from collecting on the cut.
Prune away branches that are narrower than a 45-degree angle to the main trunk in subsequent years. After the tree's first year, do all major pruning in the late winter to avoid winter damage or growth problems in the tree. You goal is to maintain four to six main growth branches. Try to remove around 1/3 of the new growth every year.
Prune dead or dying branches at any time of the year to increase fruiting and improve tree health.
Remove large branches that shade lower branches or are too tall on older trees. To remove larger branches, cut through the branch from the bottom several inches from the joint with the trunk. Stop a few inches from the top and continue cutting through from the top. This first cut will remove a lot of the weight of the branch and allow you to safely prune closer to the trunk. Cut off the remaining branch stub, leaving 1 to 2 inches attached to the trunk. Cutting too close to the trunk can stress and injure your McIntosh apple tree.