"Grass" Ideas for a small backyard area

We have effectively killed our the lawn in our backyard and plan to plant ornamentals and fruit trees. However, we would like to retain a small 12x10 ish area for picnicking and maybe an occasional slip and slide. 

Does anyone have any information for a low water, low/no maintenance grass that we could install now?

Any thoughts about an artificial turf that is soft with low/no maintenance? (We could put a mat down to protect the all-important slip and slide). I don't like the idea of plastic but don't want to use a lot of water, chemicals, etc. We do not have a dog but there are cats in the neighborhood since i know that there is a pet variable that folks consider. 

thank you!

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We have approximately the same size patch in our backyard.  We went with artificial turf through Purchase Green.  At the time we went with them they had the best quality at the best price. Installation was a little bit of a hassle since they don't employ installers themselves and most installers have a minimum price which is pricey for such a small patch.  Also, the turf can get hot in warm weather so you will want some shade over it.  But its been several years and we have done absolutely nothing to maintain it yet it still looks great and does its job.  I wouldn't do artificial for a large space but for a small patch like yours its perfect.

If you have kids I definitely recommend against artificial grass.  We had it in our backyard and ripped it out.  It gets way too hot in the summer sun and virtually unbearable to walk on while barefoot.  

There are lots of nice drought tolerant varieties that have low water requirements, including some mounding types that are very fun.  

We have a small area as well and wanted to cover an area that had been previously paved. We installed artificial turf over the top with a 1in play pad underneath (made from recycled rubber), and its a perfect play space for our daughter. We used https://replicatedgrasssystems.com for our install who I would recommend. only consideration for fake grass is if its is in direct sun - it does get HOT. We are lucky that ours is shaded most of the day, so we dont tend to have any issues but I know people who do. 

We just did the same thing last fall. We used Delta Bluegrass Native no mow sod. It needs some water to get established but then less than a regular lawn and doesn't need to be mowed. We really like it so far, it is soft and nice to walk on in bare feet or lay down on. We picked it up from Encinal Nursery in Alameda but I think they have a bunch of nurseries you can order from in the east bay.

After debating for a long time (I didn't like the idea of plastic, either), we installed artificial turf in our small, shady, unirrigated backyard 2-3 years ago and I am soooo happy with it. No weeding, no watering, no mud (the kids used it non-stop all year while we've been stuck at home, even in the rain) and it looks pretty and green every time I look out the back door. Definitely get some samples before you choose a turf so you can feel what they're like underfoot. We went with something similar to the "Jade 50" (it might have been the "Pet/Sport 60" - I can't find my notes right now) turf from Greenline (I think it's actually a similar turf our landscaper found locally) and it's soft enough to sit on and walk barefoot on, but has held up well to tons of soccer. We didn't want the pellet fill (those get everywhere, as parents of soccer players will know) - I think we went with a sand fill. Whatever it is, it doesn't come out of the turf and get all over the place, which was important to me.

We like our Eco-Lawn.  It does need a sunny area, and for any seeded grass, this isn't the optimal season to plant (best when you can expect more rain).

https://www.wildflowerfarm.com/index.php?route=product/category&path=20

If you're going to picnic on it, you wil want to mow occasionally but you can also let it go un-mown and it will make nice waves of grass.

We installed Delta No-Mow turf. It is a native fescue mix that looks like normal grass except a bit "bumpier." our toddler loves it. you can order it from Grand Lake Ace Hardware. as you probably know since you killed your lawn, lawns aren't great for the environment, but native grasses are friendlier to native bugs, etc., so they are a nice compromise! 

We replaced our scruffy lawn two years ago with Bolero plus  sod. It is low water turf and sturdy, but soft enough to lie on.  Check the various fact sheets at http://www.deltabluegrass.com/sod-products/residential-commercial-sod

We are in Walnut Creek, so heat tolerance was  essential. 

Delta bluegrass has nice no mow sods: http://www.deltabluegrass.com/sod-products/california-native-sod

this RTF sod is pretty good an low maintenance too: https://parkavenueturf.com/sod-varieties/drought-resistant/