To ballast before or after scenic treatment? Hmmmm.
I thought about this a lot and then Gayl Rotsching pushed me over the edge by saying that ballasting before is much easier. I tend to agree.
My thinking was based on concern for getting the switches carefully ballasted so nothing would be binding and having ground cover all laid down first would just get in the way. And when I'm ballasting tracks that are a bit out of reach I'm standing on a step-stool and supporting my weight with one of my arms with my hand pressing firmly on OSB, not ground cover.
As to aesthetics, in looking at the Southern and CSX tracks here in Louisville, the ballast encroaches on ground cover and vice versa, so whichever goes on first wouldn't matter much. New ballast lies on top of the grass and weeds, older ballast has weeds and grass on top. But it will be a lot easier laying in imprecise ground cover than it is shaping the ballast bed.
I ran out of scenery cement again today. Instead of running to the hobby shop again (I'll do that tomorrow) I took two jars of Aleen's Tacky glue and mixed it 1:1 with water. It filled one of the empty Woodlands Scenics bottles so I bought some time. It seems a bit more viscous than Woodlands Scenics glue, but it worked. I'll see how it dries tomorrow.
It still astounds me how much material a pike of this size consumes. Whether it's screws, ballast, scenery glue, whatever... it takes at least 3X more than I estimate. But it looks so good when the trains go on long journeys and get really small as they move to the other end of the room...