The University of Maryland Arboretum and Botanical Garden is partnering with the Office of Community Engagement for the first time this spring to unite the College Park community through a series of gardening workshops.

This university's Spring Vegetable Gardening Workshop Series will consist of four workshops, including a combination of lectures and hands-on participation inside and outside the classroom, said Meg Smolinski, the arboretum volunteers and outreach coordinator. She will lead the first workshop, Gardening 101, on Feb. 24 at this university's Arboretum Outreach Center. All classes are open to the public.

On March 10, Institute of Applied Agriculture lecturer Meredith Epstein will teach attendees about different methods and materials used to plant seeds at the Seeds and Seed Starting workshop. The series will continue April 1 with Good Neighbor Day, an annual event bringing the College Park community together through engaging in sustainable practices. Sarah D'Alexander, community engagement office coordinator, said the event will tie the series of workshops together and bring light to gardening initiatives.

"It will give people a place to take the outcomes of the workshops and put it toward the good in the community," D'Alexander said.

The Good Neighbor Day home base will be at the College Park Community Center, where participants will disperse to their respective project locations. People will choose from a list of several projects, including cleaning up and planting in areas such as Lake Artemesia in Berwyn Heights and the Cherokee Lane Elementary School in Adelphi, D'Alexander said. The community engagement office posted the project list on its Facebook page Tuesday.

The series will end April 14 with a compost workshop. The class, which Dining Services assistant director Allison Tjaden will lead, will discuss at-home recycling efforts. The event will take place at the Arboretum Outreach Center.

The PepsiCo Pepsi Enhancement Fund granted the arboretum and the community engagement office $400 after the partners requested $3,400 to fund the workshop programming, said Karen Petroff, the arboretum's assistant director. Every semester, PepsiCo provides about $50,000 for events and programs at this university. The Division of Student Affairs then reviews proposals and awards grants to organizations across the campus.

"It's been a multi-year commitment on Pepsi's part as the signature beverage of this university to give back to the campus community in a variety of ways," Smolinski said.

The arboretum and community engagement office partnered with Dining Services and the Institute of Applied Agriculture to help facilitate the program, despite receiving less money than they applied for, Petroff said.

"That's where partnering with other organizations really comes into play," she said. "To leverage what resources we do have."

Moving forward, the arboretum wants to engage students on the campus as well as residents in the community who want to join the food garden on the campus or start gardening at their own homes, Smolinski said.

"I think the difference this year is really the focus on culminating the effort with the community engagement piece of Good Neighbor Day," Smolinski said. "Rather than just good information, here's a good information series of workshops with a good target."