The holes help water get down to the roots, where turf grasses can use it, said Gil Landry, a turf scientist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “By aerating, we get more water into the soil,” Landry said. “It loosens the soil, too.” Improving water movement into the soil, he said, encourages deeper rooting, too. And with deeper roots, your lawn won’t need watering as often and will be less vulnerable to drought. Use a commercial-grade aerator. “You’ll probably have to rent one,” Landry said. “But it really helps the grass survive a drought.” Getting Water to Roots Another key to helping your lawn use water better, Landry said, is to watch the grass. You may not be used to checking whether the lawn needs water. But the grass will show you. “It starts to turn slightly off-color,” he said. “Slightly gray — that’s the first indication.” When the grass needs water, it needs a good drink. “Science tells us to water once per week,” he said, “or the least frequently, the better.” Watering your lawn a few minutes each day only moistens a thin layer near the soil surface. “The roots grow in this shallow layer,” he said, “instead of going deeper into the soil. “One good watering of about an inch a week encourages the grass to grow deeper roots,” he said, “improving its chances of surviving a drought.” Water the lawn at night to keep from losing so much water to evaporation. “It’s best to water after sundown, when we have little or no wind,” he said, “or early in the morning before 10 o’clock.” Watch the Grass On a good day, Ronald Wilson mows about 10 lawns, and so far he doesn’t see any effects of the ongoing Georgia drought. “The lawns we’ve been cutting have been looking pretty and green,” said the Tifton, Ga., lawn maintenance worker. “There’s no dry to them.” But with the current drought expected to continue, Georgia lawns could have a hard time staying alive this summer. A University of Georgia scientist says homeowners have a number of ways they can stretch their rain and irrigation further. One way is to beat up their lawns. No, it’s not lawn abuse. It’s a machine called an aerator, which punches holes in the soil. Water Deeply Adjust Mower If the drought deepens this summer, Landry says to adjust the cutting height of the lawnmower upward a notch, or about a half-inch higher than usual. “This gives the grass more leaf,” he said. “It allows it to develop more roots and withstand the stress of a drought better.” Don’t just pour on the fertilizer, either. Test your soil to see if the lawn needs fertilizer, Landry said. Then make decisions based on the soil test results. If the drought deepens, don’t fertilize as much, he said, since the grass won’t be growing as fast.