Sorta new to the native grasses. Any that I can sow for a great lawn and cut it with the lawn mower? I live in Northwest Tennessee, zone 6/7
The only native grass that I have seen recommended for a low-growing turf is buffalo grass. This is a naturally low-growing warm-season grass that needs little mowing. Buffalo grass lawns are usually started from plugs, which need a while to spread to make a solid turf.
The biggest problem for you is that your climate is probably not real suitable for buffalo grass. It is native to dry short-and mixed-grass prairies of the Great Plains. Here in mid-Missouri, I have seen a couple successful buffalo grass lawns, but it is difficult to establish due to competition from cool-season grasses and weeds that invade before the buffalo grass can from a dense turf.
If you want a native, wildlife-friendly, and low-maintenance landscape, I recommend that you go ahead and planat non-native turf grasses, but try reduce the area of turf by installing planting beds with native wildflowers, tall grasses, shrubs, and trees. Also, you will want to avoid some types of turf grasses that spread aggressively by runners.
We have some kind of cute little grass that has come up all through our garden area. At first I worried that it was Bermuda because it was that low and fine, but I'd check on it now and then and it just didn't grow like Bermuda. At first I knew of only two small clumps maybe a foot across. Now it's coming up in a lot of places and has made some matted areas several feet long. We tend to have mowed paths through planted areas, so whatever feels like coming up is what we have. This grass seems to like our conditions: much improved red and yellow clay on sloping upland. If I can manage to ID it, I'll tell you what it is. I just got my Fedco order in with my book on IDing grasses. Have just been looking at some very nice websites, the very best is http://www.wildlifemanagement.info/publications/nwsg_9.pdf and also http://deltafarmpress.com/mag/farming_quail_coming_back/index.html
I can tell you that our short grass is not described in the first article. I am sure it is native, as I haven't seen it anywhere else. The seedheads are unique, they are straight up stalks with a few side stems sticking up along just one side. All on a very small scale, usually the clump is running 2" high and the seedhead a total of 6" max. This is with some mowing, but if we'd mowed it really well or often I don't think it would have spread so much in just 2 summers. I can tell it would get taller if it had the chance, but not a whole lot taller. I've been digging up clumps to plant places where I want grass, and have offered to give some to a friend. If I could just find a photo though! If you can find a good site with native grass photos, please let me know via email. I might not get back here ever, I just came across this on a search. I usually hang out on Antique roses. Donna
A lawn grows as an expanse of one,two or three species of grasses is not a "natural condition". Maintaining that single species, or few species of growing things takes work because mother nature wants to diversify....
A natural, native landscape usually consists of a mix of species that are left to grow and reproduce.
A native lawn that you can mow is not really available.
You may want to look into growing a mix of sedges - I don't see mowing them or even growing them to be lawn like as feasible though.
Another alternative that you may be interested in is a "no-mow" lawn mixture. Its not native, its a mix of fine leafed fescues that are a slow growing alternative to a cool season lawn. It can be mowed - and usually only requires mowing a few times per year...
Here is a link that might be useful: no mow lawn mix
For what its worth (and I'm no expert), I'm going to attempt a buffalo grass yard in north central Alabama, with mixed in bluestem, side oats, blue gramma on sections. It may not work, but it was the only yard type grass I could find to try. I can let you know how it comes out, but it will probably take a few years to see if it works.
I ordered seed, so I'm going to try it that way.